Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Press freedom is generally respected in Israel, and the country features a vibrant media landscape. Journalists are occasionally subject to official restrictions, but an independent judiciary and an active civil society adequately protect the free media. Hate speech and publishing praise of violence are prohibited, and the 1948 Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance prohibits expressions of support for terrorist organizations or groups that call for the destruction of Israel. In 2004, the Supreme Court denied a government appeal seeking to uphold a ban on granting press credentials to Palestinians. Israel’s Government Press Office (GPO) had earlier ceased issuing press cards to Palestinians on security grounds, claiming that some Palestinians posing as journalists used the cards to enter Israel and carry out or abet terrorist attacks. Israeli press freedom organizations have since accused the GPO of continuing to restrict press credentials for Palestinians.
While newspaper and magazine articles on security matters are subject to a military censor, the scope of permissible reporting is wide and there is a broad range of published material. Editors may appeal a censorship decision to a three-member tribunal that includes two civilians, and publications cannot be shuttered because of censorship violations. Arabic-language publications are censored more frequently than those in Hebrew, and Arab-Israeli journalists are subject to greater restrictions than their Jewish counterparts. In 2005, the daily Haaretz, Channel 2 television station, and British Broadcasting Corporation News were made to apologize to the government for failing to submit for review stories containing “sensitive” information. In July 2006, Al-Jazeera reporters Walid Al-Omari and Elias Karram were detained briefly by Israeli security forces while covering Hezbollah rocket attacks in northern Israel; Israeli officials claimed that the reporters were assisting Hezbollah by revealing the locations of rocket hits. The 2004 release of Mordechai Vanunu, an Israeli citizen imprisoned for 18 years for espionage and disclosing information about Israel’s nuclear weapons program, was conditioned on a series of restrictions on his speech and movement; these restrictions have been condemned by the International Federation of Journalists.
A wide variety of newspapers, reflecting a broad range of political viewpoints and religious outlooks, is available in Israel. All newspapers are privately owned and freely criticize government policy. Newspapers must be licensed by the locality in which they are published. A diverse selection of broadcast media is also available. The Israel Broadcasting Authority operates public radio and television services, including the popular Kol Israel radio station. There are also commercial television networks and radio stations, and most Israelis subscribe to cable or satellite television. Internet access is widespread and available to approximately 50 percent of the population, and it is not restricted by the government.
[This rating and report reflect the state of press freedom within Israel proper, not in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which are covered in the report on the Israeli-Occupied Territories and Palestinian Authority.]