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Press groups, corruption watchdog up in arms after PM urges jailing of reporter

Two journalistic associations and a good governance group have issued rebukes of Likud and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for asserting that a top journalist should be jailed over an investigative report into one of the premier’s criminal cases.

The Israel Press Association says that “In a proper democracy neither a prime minister nor anyone on his behalf issues threats of incarceration, explicit or implicit, against reporters, even if they dare to investigate suspicions relating to him personally.

“It is still the judicial system, and it alone, that decides on jail sentences.”

The Union of Journalists in Israel says it condemns “the call to throw a reporter in jail just for doing his job. This response is the crossing of a red line, and could… encourage harm to the journalist, the media outlet he works for and the freedom of the press.”

Channel 13 investigative reporter and political commentator Raviv Drucker, in 2019 (YouTube screenshot)

The Movement for Quality Government is also appalled, saying “In a normal country a prime minister doesn’t threaten to put a journalist in jail… We stand by the brave reporter Raviv Drucker and hope journalists continue to stand up for their principles and seek truth.”

In response to a Channel 13 investigative report detailing Netanyahu’s alleged pressuring of the owner of the Walla news site Shaul Elovitch to provide positive coverage in exchange for regulatory benefits — an issue for which the prime minister is on trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in Case 4000 — Likud and Netanyahu issued a statement claiming veteran journalist Drucker was “running wild with leaks and extortion of witnesses.”

Likud further claimed that “the game is rigged” against Netanyahu, and that “in a proper world, Raviv Drucker would be going to jail today for airing criminal leaks and obstructing justice.”

Drucker, meanwhile, notes in an interview with 103FM Radio that as a journalist, he is doing nothing wrong by reporting on information leaked to him.

He claims Netanyahu is taking a page from Trump’s playbook of delegitimizing the media. “Netanyahu has forsaken any attempt at subtlety or ambiguity,” he adds.

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