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Israel Falls to 112th Place in Press Freedom Index

world press freedom map

Israel ranked in “noticeable problems” category on world press map

Reporters Without Borders 2013 Press Freedom Index (full report) has just been published.  Last year, Israel was ranked 92nd and it sunk a further 20 spaces to 112th this year (out of 179 ranked).  The fall was at least in part due to Israel’s deliberate targeting of the Gaza press center during Operation Pillar of Sand and its murder of two Gaza journalists working for Al Quds TV:

The 20-place fall of Israel (112nd) is due to the actions of the Israel Defence Forces in the Palestinian Territories – actions that used to be given a separate ranking in the index under the label of “Israel extraterritorial”. During Operation “Pillar of Defence” in November 2012, IDF deliberately targeted journalists and buildings housing media that are affiliated to Hamas or support it. And the arbitrary arrest and detention of Palestinian journalists is still commonplace.  Israeli journalists meanwhile enjoy real freedom of expression but military censorship continuesto be a structural problem.

Clearly, whoever wrote this report hasn’t had access to the numerous instances of censorship, gagging of major stories and outright intimidation suffered by Israeli journalists.  It also hasn’t taken into account the centralization of control of the media in Israel in a decreasing number of corporate hands, many of which are indebted to the government for their continued existence.  Further, tycoons like Sheldon Adelson, through control of Yisrael HaYom and its unlimited budget, has helped drive out of business one of Israel’s leading newspapers, Maariv.  All these are indicators of an even more drastic condition for press freedom than what the Index indicated.

{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Deïr Yassin February 2, 2013, 6:09 AM

    When I read the news a couple of days ago, I was astonished by the procedure of RSF and the explanation for the Israeli fall in ranking. To me it seems that Israel has maintained the same ranking.
    Last year, Israel (as well as the US) had two different rankings: no. 92 Israel (Israeli territory) and no. 133 (extra-territorial) that is the Palestinian Occupied Territories (as explained in the article). Palestine has a seperate ranking. Ranking 112 seems like a median between 92 and 133. Is there something I don’t understand here ?

    Why they chose to group these two rankings this year is strange. I for one would like to be able to see the different rankings: the ‘relative’ liberty of the press within Israel proper, and the conditions of journalists, be they Israeli, foreign or Palestinian, in the West Bank (not to speak about the killings in Gaza where THREE journalists were killed as well as civilians when the media building was targeted).
    And yes, we know the hasbara talking point: it’s worse in Syria….

  • yankel February 2, 2013, 7:15 AM

    Juxtaposing proper-Israel’s relative liberty against the occupied-territories’ lack of such does serve to underscore Israel’s practised Apartheid but I believe that, nowadays, everything that serves to remove the fictitious, export-bound, prospect of a no-longer-feasible Two State Solution is for the better.

    The “Syria’s worse” trumpcard you mention always reminds me of Stalin’s apologists insisting that Hitler was much worse – both of these lame excuses are truthful yet grossly irrelevant.

    • yankel February 2, 2013, 7:18 AM

      Oops. This was meant to be a reply to DY above.

    • Deïr Yassin February 3, 2013, 2:52 AM

      @ Yankel
      You’re right, maybe Reporters Sans Frontières are officially embracing the One State solution :-) Israel is situated 36th, I think, on The Ecomists’s index of democracy. I would like to see the raking with the Palestinian Territories included.
      And a question: is it right that the Hebrew-speaking media have more freedom than the English-speaking ones. I don’t know where I came across that, but someone from within wrote somewhere that articles that are published in Hebrew are often refused by the military censorship before publishing in English.

      • yankel February 3, 2013, 6:59 AM

        Anyone’s guess is as good as mine, I’m afraid.
        I sometimes come across stories embarrassing to Israel in Hebrew news outlets (Haaretz and ynet) which do not appear in the same outlets’ English versions but, to be honest, I occasionally come across stories just as embarrassing that do appear in both languages.
        If the policy you suggest does exist, it could be that they allow English publication of stories they assume would find their way to international media anyway and suppress English publication of what they hope might pass unnoticed under the radar.

      • yankel February 3, 2013, 10:39 AM

        Oops, I must be getting sillier by the day – I just realised I completely misread your question…

        Yes, what you’ve read is right. There’s an effective military censorship in Israeli media, a historical combination of statutes and understandings between Israeli MSM’s editors and the military.

        But Israelis are a tricky lot and finding practical paths to circumvent restrictions – legal restrictions included – is a matter of national pride. A common practice is to leak a banned scoop to foreign media and, once it’s been published abroad, report it with the disclaimer “as reported by foreign media”.

  • Davey February 2, 2013, 7:14 PM

    It seems to me that the meaning of the rating is perhaps that nobody in Israel will fret about it, that the rating is proportional to indifference. So it seems.

  • Jim Owen February 3, 2013, 1:01 AM

    what a bunch of bullshit. how is that freedom of the press doing in gaza, palestine, syria, and egypt?

    • Richard Silverstein February 3, 2013, 3:32 AM

      Oh there’s bullshit in the comment threads, but it ain’t the post–it’s the commenter (that would be YOU). If you’d bother to look at the map you’d see press freedom is ranked in all those places. But do you really want to use the Arab world as a comparison and say Israel comes out smelling like a rose compared to it (it doesn’t). That would mean Israel no longer was interested in comparing itself to the EU nations or the U.S., which are ranked FAR HIGHER in the press index. So which is it? Do you want to be compared to the Arabs or the west?

      • jim owen February 3, 2013, 3:47 AM

        While I certainly appreciate the freedom of expression you afford by printing my comment; an ad hominem attack doesn’t change facts

    • yankel February 3, 2013, 7:07 AM

      But it’s not the pro-Palestine, pro-Syria and pro-Egypt lobbies that scar that shit out of would be American Secreteries of Defense, or do they?

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