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High Court upholds decision to nix Netanyahu TV appearance

Judges say request to overturn Central Elections Committee ban on airing ‘Stand-up Nation’ clip featuring PM was filed too close to scheduled broadcast time

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a ceremony in Tel-Hai, northern Israel, February 23, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a ceremony in Tel-Hai, northern Israel, February 23, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The High Court of Justice on Tuesday rejected a petition to overturn a decision by the Central Elections Committee banning a comedy show from broadcasting a clip featuring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu had been filmed on Channel 13’s “Stand-Up Nation,” with the episode set to air on Tuesday night.

In their decision, the panel of three judges ruled that the petition by Netanyahu’s Likud party to allow airing the clip had been filed too close to the scheduled broadcast of the show.

“In view of the proximity of the times to the date of the broadcast, it became clear immediately upon its submission that there was no choice but to reject it,” the judges wrote.

The court noted that although the Central Elections Committee had given its decision against airing the clip earlier in the day, the petition was not filed until 6 p.m. with the show scheduled for 9 p.m.

“It is not to be expected that a petition submitted with such a tight deadline, such that it would require reaching a decision… in only 3 hours” could receive a proper hearing, they wrote.

Earlier in the day Judge Uzi Fogelman, chair of the elections committee, said that even though the segment was intended as entertainment, “throughout the clip, there are messages that relate directly to issues on the political agenda.”

Fogelman said the clip could be aired after the March 23 elections. He said it could not be shared earlier on the show’s social media accounts.

The Likud party claimed it was being “censored” while other politicians were being granted softball interviews on morning shows and the “Eretz Nehederet” political satire show is permitted to be on air.

“There cannot be one law for Likud and another for the rest,” the right-wing party said.

The Central Elections Committee is tasked with overseeing the national vote and upholding the campaign laws, including restrictions on electioneering on television ahead of the vote. Its rulings can be appealed to the Supreme Court.

In the run-up to the election, Israel’s fourth in two years, Netanyahu — who largely avoids giving interviews to Israeli media — has given a series of television and radio interviews, where he was grilled on the government’s response to the pandemic and his corruption trial.

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