TV news crew attacked in Tel Aviv as right wing fumes over Gaza coverage

Union of Journalists condemns latest in series of assaults against Channel 13 staff, links it to incitement following onscreen text appearing to blame PM for civilian deaths

A man, right, snatches the covering off the microphone of Channel 13 reporter Talya Cohen before pepper spraying the team of journalists, in Tel Aviv, May 10, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
A man, right, snatches the covering off the microphone of Channel 13 reporter Talya Cohen before pepper spraying the team of journalists, in Tel Aviv, May 10, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Two Channel 13 journalists were attacked with pepper spray in Tel Aviv Wednesday, amid a right-wing backlash against the station after it appeared to accuse Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of ordering airstrikes on women and children in Gaza.

Police later arrested a 41-year-old man on suspicion of involvement in the attack on a Channel 13 reporter and cameraman, the latest in a series of assaults in recent months against the television network’s staff for its perceived anti-Netanyahu slant.

Footage published online of Wednesday’s attack near Tel Aviv’s Frishman Beach shows reporter Talya Cohen preparing for a broadcast when a man walking his dog passes by and tells her: “What is this? Worse than Al Jazeera,” referring to the Qatari network. The comment echoed a tweet Tuesday night by Minister Amichai Chikli that said: “13 Jazeera.”

A short while later, the man walks back and snatches the logo-bearing covering off the reporter’s microphone. The Channel 13 cameraman, Ivan Alekseevich, then walks up to the man and forcibly takes back the covering.

The man, this time without the dog, is later seen spraying the journalists with pepper spray before walking away.

Police forces came to the scene and arrested a suspect following a brief search, Hebrew media reported.

The Union of Journalists in Israel condemned the attack in a statement, saying it was “the direct outcome of the brazen incitement circulating since this morning on social media and on WhatsApp groups against Channel 13 and its journalists.”

“As far as the inciters are concerned, the journalists can be killed,” the Union added. “We expected the police to quickly conclude the simple investigation and file a severe and deterring indictment that will send a sharp message to anyone wishing to harm journalists.”

Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi speaks at the Knesset on January 30, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On Tuesday night, the network was slammed by right-wing pundits and politicians for an onscreen chyron shown during its main evening broadcast about Israel’s airstrikes in the Gaza Strip that killed three Palestinian Islamic Jihad commanders and 10 civilians.

“With the prime minister’s approval: Women and children were killed in the overnight attack,” read the onscreen text, which Channel 13 later apologized for and said was misworded.

Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, who has sought to strengthen the staunchly pro-Netanyahu Channel 14 at the expense of its rivals, said the chyron resembled the position of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

But Karhi also condemned the attack on Wednesday. “Despite the criticism, however strong, journalists cannot be attacked in Israel,” he said. “Violence can’t be used and broadcasts can’t be disrupted, even if you don’t like them. Simply not. The only way to affect tendentious and slanted reporting in the media is with your remote control and through variety and competition. Not through violence.”

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 suspected damage to his spleen 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 that happened in the capital’s Neve Yaakov neighborhood the night before in which seven people were killed.

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