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The Israeli gov’t must stop threatening to defund media outlets

+972 Magazine stands in solidarity with our colleagues at Israel Social TV, who are being targeted for political reasons by two government ministries.

An Israeli Border Police officer harasses a Palestinians journalist covering clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces outside Ofer Military Prison, near Betunia, West Bank, August 3, 2016. (Flash90)

An Israeli Border Police officer harasses a Palestinians journalist covering clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces outside Ofer Military Prison, near Betunia, West Bank, August 3, 2016. (Flash90)

Israel’s Communications Ministry appears to have its crosshairs on “Israel Social TV,” one of a very small number of independent media outlets providing on-the-ground coverage of social and political struggles in Israel and Palestine.

Communications Ministry Director-General Shlomo Filber said he plans to cut public funding to Social TV, accusing it of “subverting the foundations of the state, and providing a platform for the delegitimization of IDF soldiers.” Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Uri Ariel followed with a threat of his own — to revoke four national service positions allotted to the organization.

According to several reports, the two government ministries took aim at Social TV following a campaign by a group of right-wing IDF reservists that accused it of providing favorable news coverage to nonviolent actions against the occupation, including the all-female flotilla intercepted by the Israeli Navy last week, conscientious objectors, and the BDS movement.

Israel Social TV was launched as an independent media outlet in 2006 and is largely sustained by support from private and public foundations (it is reportedly one of 27 non-profits in Israel that will be singled out by the new NGO law). Only 8 percent of the organization’s budget comes from the Israeli Communications Ministry. It is also one of fewer than 40 percent of outlets that broadcast on Channel 98 (“The Community Channel”) that meets the criteria for public funding.

Israel Social TV responded by saying that if the Communications Ministry believes it has broken any laws with its broadcasts, that it should take action through the appropriate legal channels. The director-general’s lack of enthusiasm for the content of their programming, however, does not form a basis to cut its funding.

These threats against Social TV must be seen as part of a sustained campaign by the government against the media in Israel, especially since the last elections. That campaign has included Prime Minister Netanyahu’s campaign to sabotage the nascent Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation, Defense Minister Liberman’s intervention in content broadcasted by Israel’s Army Radio, and the uptick in judicial gag orders and censorship by the IDF Censor.

The Palestinian media, on the other hand, has for years been subject to acts of physical and structural violence at the hands of Israeli authorities. This includes systematically restricting access and movement, shuttering entire media outlets (even those not suspected of incitement or other crimes), opening fire toward, assaulting and harassing journalists in the field, placing them in administrative detention, and more.

Just as we have stood in solidarity with Palestinian journalists, +972 Magazine is proud to stand alongside our colleagues at Israel Social TV. We call on all media outlets in Israel and across the world, independent and mainstream alike, to speak out against the Israeli government’s threats against Social TV and any other outlet harassed or otherwise targeted for political reasons.

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    1. i_like_ike52

      Why on earth is the government obligated to use taxpayers hard-earned money to fund the media? There are plenty of fabulously wealthy people around the world who agree with this group’s political views….they should get their funding from them.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Lewis from Afula

      Let the Leftist, traitorous “Social TV” find its own funding. We are sick of our tax moneys being used to support self-hating organizations.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Liz

      A fascist state tries to control the information given to its citizens. Virtually impossible in the internet age but Israel will not stop trying. The extreme right is in control of the country. Democracy is dying. Get used to it. This is what the descendants of the holocaust have chosen for their country.

      Reply to Comment
      • Lewis from Afula

        I agree with Liz. The fascist PLO & Hamas need to be stopped. Thus, it is important to stop funding all the self-haters and loonies. However, the Leftist Social TV should be free to get support from their friends – Saudi Arabia, Iran, Hezbola, Hamas, ISIS or wherever. Just don’t do it on our dime.

        Reply to Comment