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Extra-parliamentary tasks

After MKs caught reading, shopping in plenum, some appeal for privacy

Speaker Mickey Levy indicates he has no intention of blocking journalists and photographers from documenting, snapping photos of parliamentarians’ activities on the Knesset floor

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu sits in the Knesset plenum on October 18, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu sits in the Knesset plenum on October 18, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

A pair of lawmakers penned a letter to Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy on Wednesday asking him to boost privacy measures in the plenum after reporters managed to snap photos of members of Knesset in the midst of some extra-parliamentary activities while on the Knesset floor.

“Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed an improper phenomenon repeating itself again and again, where members of Knesset are photographed without their knowledge while they are in the Knesset plenum,” wrote Labor MK Emilie Moatti and Religious Zionism MK Ofir Sofer — ostensible ideological foes — in their letter to Levy.

“The private interests of members of Knesset and ministers — as well as issues in their field of work that are sometimes related to issues of national security and classified issues — must remain in their sole possession unless they choose to disclose them.”

The gallery where journalists and photographers are allowed to sit overlooks the Knesset floor and gives a bird’s-eye view of the activities of many parliamentarians, whether the lawmakers like it or not.

MKs have often been spotted reading books, playing on their phones, and watching sports matches during heated discussions and debates, as well as official ceremonies. The political activities and machinations of parliamentarians have also on occasion become public, thanks to the work of eagle-eyed reporters with zoom lenses.

Likud MK Keti Shitrit was caught recently shopping for shoes on her phone, while seated on the Knesset floor, and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu was spotted earlier this month with a note from his wife offering suggestions for an upcoming speech.

Moatti, who was elected earlier this year, and Sofer, who entered the Knesset in 2019, wrote that at times during plenum meetings, “members of Knesset and ministers are forced to sometimes deal with personal issues, as well as work concerns.” Therefore, they requested that Levy “use the tools you have at your disposal to eradicate this phenomenon.”

In response to a Walla report on their letter, sources in Levy’s office said that the Knesset speaker has no intention of changing the way that journalists and photographers cover the Knesset plenum, “and members of Knesset should internalize the fact that the plenum is being filmed, exposed, and is fully open to the public.”

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