Israel | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2004

2004 Scores

Press Status


Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


The press in Israel is generally able to operate freely. While newspaper and magazine articles on security matters are subject to a military censor, the scope of permissible reporting is wide. Publishing the praise of violence is prohibited under the Counter-terrorism Ordinance, and authorities prohibit expressions of support for groups that call for the destruction of Israel. Editors may appeal a censorship decision to a three-member tribunal that includes two civilians. Arabic-language publications are censored more frequently than are Hebrew-language ones. Newspapers are privately owned and freely criticize government policy. Broadcast media, run both privately and by the state, reflect a broad range of opinion. Tensions between foreign journalists and Israel's Government Press Office (GPO) remained strained in 2003. The GPO, citing security concerns, announced it would establish a new accreditation process for journalists that would include background checks by Israel's domestic security agency, the Shin Bet. The government dropped the plan in the face of pronounced opposition by journalists and press freedom groups. Palestinian journalists, however, continued to encounter difficulty obtaining credentials. In November the government ended a months-long boycott of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Israel ceased accommodating BBC interview requests and inviting BBC reporters to official briefings after the national broadcaster aired a controversial documentary about Israel's undeclared nuclear weapons program. Israel lifted the ban in November after the BBC issued a commitment to objective Middle East reporting and appointed a special adviser on Middle Eastern affairs. In October, the government forced the pirate radio station Arutz Sheva off the air for operating without a license. The station's broadcasts, supportive of Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza, originated from a boat in the Mediterranean Sea. In November, the Israeli High Court upheld an appeal against a decision by the Israel Film Board to ban the screening of a documentary film critical of Israel's armed forces. [The rating for Israel reflects the state of press freedom within Israel proper, not in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which is covered in the following report on the Israeli-administered Territories/Palestinian Authority.]