Defense Minister Benny Gantz has decided at long last to remove Army Radio from the military and his ministry’s purview once and for all, a move that has long been expected but has been delayed over concerns regarding its still unknown practical ramifications.
“An inter-agency team will be formed, led by Defense Ministry Director-General Amir Eshel, which will lead the process and develop a proposal for how to transfer the station or shut it,” Gantz’s office says in a statement.
The military’s running and funding a radio station with journalists responsible for investigating the IDF itself and the government has long been considered anachronistic and an ethical minefield. The decision to finally jettison Army Radio from the army comes after a request from IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi to do so last summer.
“Defense Minister Benny Gantz decided — on the recommendation of IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi — to speed up the process with the goal of removing Army Radio from the defense establishment,” Gantz’s office says.
Eshel’s team will include representatives from the Defense Ministry, IDF, Justice Ministry and Communications Ministry.
Over the course of several weeks, the committee will put together a proposal to either turn Army Radio into a civilian station or to close it completely, according to the Defense Ministry. In a statement, Gantz indicates he would prefer the former option.
“I appreciate Army Radio and its contribution to Israeli journalism and to the variety of opinions and voices in the media, and it would be right to find another outlet for its continued operation,” the defense minister says.
“The decision… was an ethical matter, not a budgetary one. A free press in Israel is important above all else, and I will continue to defend it and ensure its independence, but having a military radio station in the IDF is not reasonable at this time. I have determined that people in uniform should not deal with politics in any position,” Gantz says in a statement.