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Declining Israeli Press Freedom: If Reporter Had Story Leading to Bibi’s Ouster, Ben Caspit Fears He Might Not Report It

While there are myriad stories recounting the assault against democracy in Israel, none is more important evident than the emasculation of the Israeli press.  While it has always been subject to censorship on matters related to national security, the pressure against honest, courageous reporting has mounted to alarming proportions.  In this light, one of Israel’s best known reporters with a decidedly right-wing (but anti-Bibi) slant, Ben Caspit, wrote this in today’s column:

If someone today brought credible, troubling information which could cause the fall of the prime minister, and which would seek a reporter or media outlet to publish it, would he find one?  Answer: I’m not certain.  Very few such outlets would agree to publish such a story.  There are, here and there, a few last shreds of opposition [to the government’s attempt to silence the press], but they are growing less and less.

Another question: say such a source only brings the thread of a story, which requires doing further exhaustive research in order to confirm the information which was likely to result in the fall of the prime minister.  Is there a journalist who would raise the gauntlet and do the work?  Answer: I fear not.  Yes, it’s that bad.  The government media outlets are in a bad way.  They’re [the government] trying to close Channel 10.  They’ve already sentenced it to death.  The print media is fast weakening and the flame has already gone out there.  Galey Tzahal [Armed Forces Radio] has already been decimated by the defense minister.  What’s left?  Not much.  Hard to believe, but it’s a fact.

For some time already the media in Israel has abrogated its responsibility to tell the public what’s really happening between the walls of the prime minister’s home and office.  Even I, who’s attempted to assume the burden, am not what I once was.

If this isn’t an abject confession of personal and institutional failure I don’t know what is.  But at least Caspit is being candid, unlike the majority of reporters who go their merry way as if nothing was wrong, reporting what their masters (er, sources) feed them.

I remind you that I reported two days ago that Netanyahu threatened revocation of the license of any media outlets that reported the Forbes Israel story ranking the wealth of Knesset members.  The only one to report the story as far as I know has been Channel 10, the very one given a death sentence by Bibi.  Mako and Globes both took down their stories from their websites.  Many, including liberal readers and media types, have doubted my source on this.  All I can say, is that Ben Caspit further reinforces the credibility of this report.

Only in an authoritarian nation or one fast moving down this road, can the media be so intimidated and emasculated.

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Jeannette November 19, 2011, 12:14 AM

    Richard, keep the good work, we need you!

  • pea November 19, 2011, 5:45 AM

    Is there a link to the source?

  • pabelmont November 19, 2011, 6:06 AM

    Did anyone make a copy of the web-pages (about ministerial wealth) which were taken down (presumably at government threat)? If not WHY NOT, given the apparently well-known and here-reported and not sudden-onset subversion by the government of the media in Israel?

    • Richard Silverstein November 19, 2011, 1:36 PM

      I am still trying to get a pdf or scan of the article. If anyone has to pay to buy the issue I’ll reimburse for the expense.

  • Adrian November 19, 2011, 8:41 AM

    If even the right-wingers start doubting the freedoms that normally are enshrined, defended and enforced by a state, things are worse!

    Doubting the right, freedom and the ability to publish material that would possibly hurt the PM of a country is showing that that state is not worthy of being considered to be part of the international community, and that it should be suspended (at least) from every participation in matters that involve negotiations TILL the moment that there is real freedom to communicate what is considered to be wrong!

    Ban the state of Israel from ALL international participation in whatever matter: economically, socially, religiously, mentally, scientifically, artistically, and whatever matter!

    Israel has lost all rights!

  • Gil November 19, 2011, 9:24 AM

    Yes, so ‘intimidated and emasculated’ etc. that Ben Kaspit, Ari Shavit, Yoel Marcus etc. etc. are -THANKFULLY- allowed to write what they want including corsucating criticism of Netanyahu.

  • Fred Plester November 19, 2011, 9:25 AM

    One is reminded of the American-born female journalist who went through a series of court battles to get members of the British Parliament to publish a few specific items of their expenses.

    She fought a lone battle, through the courts, until Fleet Street began to take notice. And she was only going after one item at a time.

    Then, when Parliamentary officials were reluctantly actually collating and checking all recent MP’s expenses claims (except those of a Mr Blair relating to tens of thousands claimed for mortgage payments on a house he’d bought for only £30,000 in the first place, which he shredded before the FOIA case concluded) the Daily Telegraph obtained a disc containing all the information, including everything which the courts were going to let the Speaker hide, and published the lot.

    The only reason this did not include Mr Blair’s mortgage fraud was because he was the only member of Parliament with the “Clinton Instinct” necessary to recognize a hostage to fortune in good time and shred it before it entered the official record.

    But it was a stunning education for the American journalist, in how freedom of the press consists of the freedom the press EXERCISE, not the freedom which a constitutional document condescends to let them have.

    American, and even, Israeli, papers have far more legal rights on paper than British ones. But if a British newspaper has its gun to the head of a crooked politician, no matter how powerful, they tend to pull the trigger and American and Israeli ones, not to mention French and German ones, will not.

    The Daily Telegraph had no explicit legal “right” to blow more than a third of all MPs away in a single week, but it was the right thing to do and they did it. And this, in turn, has led to the election of a somewhat less conformist House.

    For anyone researching Mr Blair’s scams, especially back in his constituency, where no London-based investigative reporter ever goes, the following blog is a valuable resource and starting point:


    • Fred Plester November 20, 2011, 6:55 AM

      Although, as the late Alan Myers noted, the one thing Fleet Street WON’T do, is get on a train to somewhere North of Peterborough to look for evidence, which is another plank of the Blair survival strategy.

      They are now excited about the possibility of evidence against Blair emerging from Libya: so much more fun to go there than County Durham. Where, I believe the evidence still exists for a pretty straightforward action under the theft act.

      {Boring technicality time: MPs are entitled to claim towards mortgage repayments on their constituency home, only for the purpose of maintaining a home in their constituency. What Blair did was secure a mortgage to buy a completely different dwelling, neither in his constituency or near Parliament, against his constituency home, which had been paid for years before. He was obtaining money under false pretences using a false instrument.}

      If any of Israel’s political leaders have committed equivalent deeds, it would be jolly interesting to know who taught who how to get away with what.

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