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Netanyahu asked '315 times' for favourable media coverage

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech at the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) in Jerusalem on 22 December 2020. [YONATHAN SINDEL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech at the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) in Jerusalem on 22 December 2020. [YONATHAN SINDEL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]

Israeli prosecutors released an amended indictment against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday that included details of the many requests that he made for favourable media coverage from the owner of a major telecom company.

Netanyahu has been charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three separate corruption cases: Case 1000 involves allegations that the PM and his wife accepted illegal gifts from businessmen; Case 2000 accuses Netanyahu of attempting to buy favourable newspaper coverage; Case 3000, also known as the "submarine scandal", would have seen Israel purchase naval vessels and submarines from a German firm with millions of shekels allegedly "skimmed" off the top of the deals for personal profit; and Case 4000, in which a close associate of Netanyahu is suspected of providing confidential information to Israel's largest telecoms company.

According to Ynet News, one of these cases alleges that Netanyahu promoted regulations worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the owner of the Bezeq telecom company, Shaul Elovitch, in exchange for positive coverage on its popular Walla news site.

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Responding to calls from Netanyahu's lawyers to get more details, prosecutors released a letter on Sunday alleging that there had been 315 incidents of Walla being requested to make its coverage more favourable for Netanyahu and his family. The prosecutors, reported Ynet, said that there were indications that Netanyahu was personally involved in 150 of those incidents.

Positive coverage for the Prime Minister and his family, it is alleged, was to be accompanied by negative coverage for his rivals and their families. An example cited is when a Netanyahu associate allegedly persuaded Elovitch in 2013 to publish stories claiming that the wife of Naftali Bennett, the head of rival Yamina party, worked in a non-kosher restaurant.

Netanyahu also allegedly pressed Walla to remove a story critical of his wife and replace it with favourable articles. Ynet News believes that both requests were granted. In another case, Netanyahu apparently asked for a live broadcast about protests against him to be halted in 2015, and this was done.

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