The chairman of the Central Elections Committee on Thursday appealed to the Israeli media to help protect the April 9 national elections from illicit foreign interference by, among other precautions, refusing to report news from anonymous sources. Supreme Court Judge Hanan Melcer said current election law, which does not extend to digital media the basic transparency requirements that have long been applied to traditional media, “screams out” to be updated. But in the absence of such a change, local media needed to take additional care, Melcer said, to prevent the spread of stories that were unsubstantiated and possibly malicious and false. (The ruling Likud party has to date been preventing the necessary unanimous agreement among existing Knesset parties to extend those requirements voluntarily.) Addressing a press conference at the Knesset called one day before the onset of the 60 day period during which, according to law, the media is banned from facilitating election propaganda, Melcer said journalists should employ their instincts and common sense when it came to any material, notably including survey results, that looked odd.
While freedom of speech was an essential value, even the Americans had understood that it could be limited in order to curb anonymous attempts to meddle in elections, he said.
He urged editors and reporters to check out suspicious communications and take special care with surveys, because of their enormous influence on public opinion. Today’s surveys were often carried out via computers and social media, he noted. “If you see results that don’t look reasonable, be careful,” he said.