In recent years in Israel, we have witnessed a change in public discourse towards the media in general and journalists in particular. It seems that the right to freedom of expression and free media are no longer taken for granted. One of the significant factors affecting the change in public opinion is the attitude of politicians towards journalists, and the one who influenced it the most is former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who used his authority and the power to intimidate, deter, and threaten major media outlets and journalists, trying to silence criticism and cater a positive coverage for himself.
For example, after Channel 12 news journalist Guy Peleg exposed Netanyahu's "submarines case" and alleged motives for this corruption scandal, he was attacked on social media minutes after the news were out. Netanyahu attacked Guy Peleg and labeled him a liar, a "world champion in fake news", and he argued that Channel 12's news department carries out an "organized attack on democracy".
Moreover, Netanyahu portrayed Channel 12 as a demonic organization with the goal of undemocratically ousting him from power, and for this purpose they and their "friends", i.e., the State Attorney's Office, "operate using heinous methods." Netanyahu also blamed channel 12 for acting on foreign considerations and betraying the professional journalistic principles and ethics.
Another example is Netanyahu's response to Ilana Dayan, an award-winning investigative journalist who published an investigation on his wife's involvement in appointments within the Prime Minister's Office and her attempt to take part in political discussions. At the end of the program, as part of the journalist's ethics, Ilana Dayan read Netanyahu's response to the investigation. In this written statement, Netanyahu accused her of political bias, acting without any professional integrity, and wrote that Dayan's main goal was to overthrow the right-wing government and bring about the formation of a left-wing government. Netanyahu's written response also said that Dayan's investigative journalism is only political propaganda while presenting her personal views and trying to "engineer the public's consciousness".
It is important to note that politicians' attacks on the media happen all over the world and they are not an Israeli invention. For example, research by Meeks (2020) presents Donald Trump's conduct toward the media during the 2016 election campaign and during his tenure. Meeks describes how Trump used social media to attack the media and even said that "they are not his personal enemy but the enemy of all Americans." Trump's attacks have affected Americans and even reinforced the negative perception of the media in the public eye.
Politicians' attacks on the media and journalists have reinforced citizens' distrust in the media and in journalists who are so-called sympathizers with the left. Unfortunately, if until this day the distrust has manifested itself in verbal violence, today some citizens are not afraid to use physical violence as we saw in Capitol Hill last January and in Israel during the "Guardian of the Walls" military operation.