Reporter for right-wing network attacked while covering anti-government protest

Demonstrators interrupt live report by Channel 14’s Atay Shalev, drape flags in front of him and allegedly beat him with flagpoles; Union of Journalists condemns incident

Screen capture from video of Channel 14 reporter Atay Shalev swamped by anti-government protesters at a rally in Bnei Brak, May 18, 2023. (Twitter. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Screen capture from video of Channel 14 reporter Atay Shalev swamped by anti-government protesters at a rally in Bnei Brak, May 18, 2023. (Twitter. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Anti-government protesters attacked a reporter from Channel 14 news network, interrupting his live broadcast and allegedly beating him and his crew with flagpoles on Wednesday.

Atay Shalev, whose network caters to a right-wing religious audience, said the physical assault felt like a “lynching.”

The communication minister and the Union of Journalists in Israel both condemned the incident, and Channel 14 said it would seek legal action against the perpetrators.

Shalev was reporting live from an anti-government demonstration in Bnei Brak protesting the government’s plans to allocate large sums of money to the ultra-Orthodox community.

At first, each time Shalev reported back to the studio demonstrators waved flags in front of him to disrupt the broadcast. But the heckling then became more heated.

Protesters draped flags over Shalev’s head and on the camera. Some also cursed him, blared horns at him and jostled him. According to Shalev there was a physical assault too.

Speaking to the station Thursday, Shalev said that “it felt like a lynching.”

Shalev said he is accustomed to facing animosity at anti-government demonstrations because he reports for Channel 14, which critics consider a mouthpiece for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but that the incident the night before had for the first time included physical violence.

He said protesters used their flagpoles to beat him and his crew on the head and body.

“At that point I felt afraid. Until now I have not felt afraid in all the demonstrations I have been to, but here with the flags when it reached the physical level I started to be afraid,” Shalev said.

He said police do not usually intervene when it is just a matter of heckling but when two officers nearby noticed the physical violence they came over to pull him to safety.

Shalev vowed to continue reporting from demonstrations and to “continue to do my job. I will go wherever the channel sends me.”

Channel 14 said in a statement Thursday that it was putting together a legal team to file lawsuits against the protesters involved.

“We demand that the police commissioner and all law enforcement agencies take immediate action to prosecute the violent thugs,” the network said. “The channel’s management intends to set up a legal team as early as tomorrow morning to file civil lawsuits against the miscreants who attacked our dedicated staff. Attempts at violent and criminal silencing will not deter us.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, with Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi during a discussion and a vote in the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on March 1, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi of Netanyahu’s Likud party tweeted: “The ‘democratic’ protesters in Bnei Brak are unable to hear a different opinion and they block a Channel 14 reporter from reporting.”

“Journalists in Israel will not be attacked, they will not be blocked from broadcasting and violence will not be used against them,” he wrote. “No way.”

The Journalists Union said in a statement that “it takes a severe view and strongly opposes the behavior of protesters who disrupted the broadcast of a Channel 14 reporter. A situation in which a media team needs police protection to carry out its work is unacceptable. We call on all protesters, for and against, not to hinder the media from doing its job in a democratic country.”

Amid mass protests against the government’s planned drastic overhaul of the judiciary and counter-protests by its supporters, there have been several incidents of attacks on journalists as they tried to report events.

Earlier this month a man pepper-sprayed a Channel 13 TV crew on a street in Tel Aviv. The incident came amid a right-wing backlash against the station after it appeared to accuse Netanyahu of ordering airstrikes on women and children in Gaza in an onscreen chyron shown during its main evening news broadcast about Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip.

There have been a series of assaults in recent months against Channel 13’s staff for its perceived anti-Netanyahu slant.

In late April, during a massive right-wing rally urging the government to unfreeze its highly controversial judicial overhaul plan, a glass bottle was thrown at Channel 13 reporters covering the demonstration, narrowly missing them.

In late March, ahead of another right-wing rally, a Channel 13 team was attacked by members of the far-right La Familia group, causing reporter Yossi Eli to be hospitalized with a broken rib and dealing a head injury to cameraman Avi Cashman.

In January, an angry crowd accosted a Channel 13 crew in Jerusalem, berating the journalists as “leftists” and telling them to leave the area as the reporters covered a terror attack in the capital’s Neve Yaakov neighborhood the night before in which seven people were killed.

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