Israeli Billboard Marks Netanyahu’s Latest Attack on the Media

As Israel prepares for its April 9th elections, threats of cyber crime by foreign actors and corruption cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have shaken up the political scene. This weekend, Netanyahu’s Likud Party added to the pre-election chaos through the installment of a controversial billboard targeting Israeli journalists.

Placed at one of the country’s busiest intersections, the billboard, which bears the photographs of four Israeli journalists, reads “They won’t decide. You decide. In spite of it all, Netanyahu!” The party posted a photograph of the billboard on their official Twitter account.

Netanyahu has been attacking both the mainstream and left leaning Israeli media following the revealing of his numerous corruption scandals. Appearing in a video on Facebook and Twitter, Netanyahu criticized mainstream journalists, stating his belief that they are pressuring Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit to indict him.

Netanyahu currently faces charges after being accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from a Hollywood producer. Desperate to put an end to critical media coverage and to maintain his position as Prime Minister, Netanyahu has allegedly proposed amending the law to support members of the mainstream media in order to incentivize favorable media coverage.

“They won’t decide” has rapidly gained popularity since Friday. A Facebook page bearing the slogan as its title was established on Friday in order to rally support for Netanyahu’s re-election in April. A similar billboard was installed in Tel Aviv on Friday.

The Likud Party has indicated its intention to continue its propaganda campaign this weekend including an investment of 1 million shekels, or $271,000, for 100 more billboards across the country up until the election.

In response to the billboards put up by the Likud Party, the Justice Ministry issued a statement saying, “not videos, not billboards and not protesters, not quotes by ‘associates,’ and fake leaks – only professional considerations will be taken into account in the attorney general’s decision on the prime minister’s cases.”

Netanyahu, along with the Likud Party, has also objected to a legislative proposal aimed at banning anonymous propaganda online, stating that it “contradicts the foundations of our democracy.” Likud was the sole political party in Israel to contest this amendment. Netanyahu stated his concern regarding the amendment’s potential negative impact on his campaign. As of 2019, Israel ranks 87th in Reporters without Borders’ Press Freedom Index.

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