Walla editor says he was constantly pushed to change coverage of Netanyahu and rivals

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Former Walla editor Ilan Yeshua says the directives to change his coverage came from his superiors, including Elovitch.

He says the recommendations also came from the Prime Minister’s Office through emails, WhatsApp messages and text messages.

Yeshua gives an example of a type of message he would receive: “Do an item about this.”

He recalls a specific case in which Walla was instructed to write a negative article about then-agriculture minister Uri Ariel, but the story didn’t meet the news outlet’s editorial policies, as the reporters could not get it confirmed and Ariel had denied the allegations against him. He says this led to a follow-up conversation with Elovitch, who Yeshua says had spoken to Netanyahu.

Yeshua says the Elovitches couched their demands for positive coverage for the premier in ethical and political terms.

“They would say: what are you, [the liberal] Haaretz newspaper? What are you, a website for leftists? What are you, a website for Hamas members?” Yeshua says.

Yeshua says there were constant fights about these demands, but says “90 percent” of them were accepted anyway.

Court sketch of Ilan Yeshua in the Jerusalem District Court, April 5, 2021. (Biana Zakutnik)

Yeshua says there was an attempt to make up a story about sexual harassment against the investigative journalist Avner Hofstein.

Hofstein currently reports for The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language sister site, Zman Israel, but at that time worked for Army Radio.

Netanyahu’s attorneys object to this allegation as they say it did not appear in the indictment or other paperwork submitted by the prosecution.