Netanyahu faces amended indictment from prosecutors mentioning over 300 coverage demands

Benjamin_Netanyahu

On Sunday, Israeli prosecutor launched an amended indictment against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with regard to his corruption case. In the detailed charges mentioned against Netanyahu, the prosecutors said that the Israeli leader used his power and position to favour a powerful media giantin exchange of positive coverage.

Since last year, Netanyahu has been charged with three serious corruption cases including fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes. One of them alleged that Netanyahu promoted regulations worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the owner of the Bezeq telecom company in exchange for positive coverage on its popular Walla news site.

On the request raised by Netanyahu’s lawyer, who claimed that the original indictment lacked important details, the Israeli prosecutors released a letter on Sunday mentioning the details of 315 incidents. These incidents highlighted the instances when the Israelis PM reached out to Walla for his and his family’s positive coverage. The letter highlighted that out of 315 total indications, 150 requests directly involved Netanyahu.

The document added that the requests involved changing of headlines, publishing positive articles about Netanyahu, his wife Sara and his family, suppressing or even wiping out unfavourable stories and providing less coverage of rival groups’ rallies and works. It also alleged that requests were made for negative coverage of Netanyahu’s opponents. Shaul Elovitch, Bezeq telecom’s the then controlling shareholder, in his statement said that in case of negative stories Netanyahu would take a vindictive stand and would not approve of business deals otherwise profitable for the company.

Among all the 315 instances of requested favours, one raised on January 17-19, 2013, included a request from Netanyahu associate for publishing stories saying that the wife of Naftali Bennett, head of a rival religious party, worked in a non-kosher restaurant. Several weeks down the lane, Netanyahu approached Walla through the same associate to ask the agency to take down few articles which were critical about a lacy dress his wife had worn to the swearing-in of the new parliament. It was alleged that the media organisation was asked to replace the same with few favourable articles to influence public opinion. The site agreed to both requests, the letter said.

Elovitch also mentioned an instance alleging Netanyahu’s associate of requesting Walla to stop a live broadcast of a rally by Netanyahu’s opponents during the 2015 national election campaign.Responding to the accusations along with updated indictment, Netanyahu on Sunday said in a statement that the “balloon of Case 4000 has burst.”“The prosecution barely managed to find 10 media requests from the prime minister to Walla in four years, an average of one request every half a year, during a time in which 10,000 articles were written about the prime minister in Walla,” Netanyahu added.

He invalidated the instances alleging his direct involvement as mere routine inquiries made by spokespeople, such as clarifying coverage of his meetings with world leaders.“It’s absurd the prosecution defines these routine actions by spokespeople as criminal acts,” Netanyahu said. “And the height of absurdity — nowhere on earth has an indictment been filed against a public figure because of media coverage. This is what happens when they try in every way to stick a case against a strong right-wing government leader.”

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