Freedom House has downgraded its ranking of Israel’s media from ‘free’ to ‘partly free,’ citing closer ties to the government and a spike in paid media content. But it has one flagrant omission: Israel’s poor treatment of Palestinian journalists.
By Lisa Goldman
Freedom House, the U.S.-based watchdog NGO that reports on the state of civil liberties around the world, has downgraded its ranking of Israel’s media from “free” to “partly free” in its 2016 Freedom of the Press Report. The authors of the report cite the influence of the free daily newspaper Israel Hayom, which is owned and subsidized at a huge loss by American casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who is an unabashed patron of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel Hayom pursues an editorial agenda that is overtly partisan toward Netanyahu, which is why it is often referred to as the “Bibiton,” a portmanteau of the Hebrew word for “newspaper” and the Israeli leader’s nickname, Bibi. The report also cites the “unchecked expansion” of paid media content, which is not always clearly identified. It notes that this paid content is sometimes funded by the government.
In 2014 Israel’s media was back up to “free” status, along with the perennial note that it has the freest media in the region, where not one country’s media is ranked “free.”
The free/partly free ranking is a matter of just a few points in their methodology, pointed out Freedom House’s Sarah Repucci, who heads up the publication of the annual Freedom of the Press Report. She added, “We use detailed methodology. Israel shifted only two points this year.”
There was some outrage in right-wing circles over the downgrade, with Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin quoting a couple of DC-based neo-cons to support her claim that the report was an example of anti-Israel bias.
Leaving aside the all-but inevitable expressions of outrage from the Israel advocacy crowd over any criticism of Israeli policy or society, a more detached observer might note that there is no mention in the Freedom House report of Palestinian journalists. On the one hand this makes sense, since Palestinian residents of the occupied territories are not citizens of Israel. But on the other hand, Palestinian journalists work in territory that is controlled by Israel. And they do not have any of the legal protections afforded to their Israeli colleagues working in the same territory.
In tangible terms, this means...Read More