The press around the world is under attack, according to the World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders, an NGO that supports press freedom. Out of 180 countries surveyed, Israel came in at 91.
“This year shows a real worsening of the situation,” Prem Samy, the head of the World Freedom Index told The Media Line. “We show a 14 percent decline in freedom of the press since last year. It shows that the press around the world has not been so threatened in the last five years.”
Samy presented the findings at a panel at a conference on Press Freedom in the Digital Era sponsored by the Jerusalem Press Club.
Uri Dromi, the director general of the Jerusalem Press Club and a former Israeli Government Press Office (GPO) spokesman, commented on Israel’s poor showing. “To be in the middle and see all of those countries above you is alarming,” he said. “One of the reasons we are relatively low is military censorship, which most of the other countries don’t have because of the security situation we are in. But we still need to ask ourselves tough questions.”
Of the 180 countries listed on the Index, the top five are Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands. At the bottom are North Korea, Eritrea, Turkmenistan, Syria and China. The US is at 43, behind Burkina Faso and Belize.
Writing about Israel, the report says that the Israeli media are free to be outspoken, which is rare in the Middle East. Nonetheless, despite the existence of independent media, journalists are subject to “military censorship.”
The Israel Defense Forces often violate the rights of Palestinian journalists and journalists of other nations, especially when they are covering demonstrations, the report claims. Under Israel’s system of administrative detention, Palestinian journalists can be held indefinitely without trial, without formal charge, and without notifying a lawyer.
The Israeli prime minister this week slammed the media for what he said was misreporting on an amended charter by Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip.
“Ever wonder what fake news is?” Benjamin Netanyahu asked in a video he posted in English to his Facebook page. “Last week headlines in CNN, Al Jazeera and the Guardian said that Hamas now accepts a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines. … It’s bad enough that Hamas lies to the world. We don’t also have to lie to ourselves.”
“Hamas murders women and children. It’s launched tens of thousands of missiles at our homes. … So where does this hate-filled document belong? Right here,” the prime minister said as he crumpled a copy of the charter and threw it in the garbage.
US President Donald Trump has taken media bashing to new heights, calling the media “an enemy of the people.” US analysts say that the decline in press freedom in the US is worrying.
“When you go back to our founding documents, the Constitution, the description of the Federalist papers, all that we think of as the core of America, freedom of the press was not only a core right, it was a given so if that is in question it shapes liberal democracy to its roots,” Fred Lawrence, the CEO of the Phi Beta Kappa Society and a former president of Brandeis University told The Media Line.
Article written by Linda Gradstein