GPO: Downgrading Israel's press-freedom ranking 'ridiculous'

Government Press Office head calls NGO Freedom House "useless"; Association for Civil Rights in Israel fighting "big brother" law.

May 3, 2009 22:01
2 minute read.
GPO: Downgrading Israel's press-freedom ranking 'ridiculous'

freedom of press 88. (photo credit: AP)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief


NGO Freedom House is a "useless and ridiculous" organization, Government Press Office head Daniel Seamans charged on Sunday, after it downgraded Israel's press status from "free" to "partly free" in a report released over the weekend. The report was published on the eve of World Press Freedom Day, which was observed on Sunday. The downgrading from 30th to 31st place in world rankings was caused, according to the report, by government actions during Operation Cast Lead, including the barring of foreign and local journalists from Gaza, alleged attempt to influence media coverage within Israel and alleged heightened self-censorship by local media outlets. According to Seamans, the government's decision to prohibit journalists from covering Cast Lead on the spot was a strategic move. Had the foreign press been allowed into Gaza, "their reports would have had a harsh effect on world public opinion and endangered our ability to meet our goals," he said. Seamans added that most of the hundreds of journalists who wanted to enter Gaza knew nothing about armed conflict, particularly armed conflict in built-up areas. They were also unfamiliar with Hamas's skill at manipulating information. Yizhar Be'er, head of the Israeli NGO Keshev, told The Jerusalem Post that "Israel's decision to bar foreign correspondents from entering Gaza was very problematic compared to the norms of behavior in the West. Yet we say we are a Western country with Western norms." He charged that the government had no right to prohibit foreign correspondents from entering Gaza because it was not responsible for their well-being. He was also critical of Israel's refusal to allow entry to local correspondents, even though he said a case could be made for that. The state is responsible for the safety of its citizens and prohibiting their entry into Gaza might be construed as an act of protection, Be'er explained. However, there were Israeli journalists who were willing to forgo the state's protection in order to carry out their journalistic duties. But the government only succeeded in frustrating the hundreds of foreign journalists who wanted to enter Gaza, he said. Aside from restricting freedom of the press without any acceptable reason, the government's move was not in its own self-interest, because it only served to antagonize the foreign correspondents who had come to Israel to cover the fighting. Meanwhile, an attorney for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Avner Pinchuk, told the Post that the organization was currently involved in a fight against another threat to freedom of the press, this one domestic. Last year, ACRI petitioned the High Court against the "big brother" law, approved by the Knesset on December 17, 2007. The law gives police the right to ask a magistrate's court for permission to order telephone and mobile phone companies to hand over information, including calls made and received by every subscriber in the country and their whereabouts at any given moment. In emergency cases, the police may act without a court order. Pinchuk warned that among other things, the law threatens the right of journalists to conceal their sources of information.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

Jisr az-Zarq
April 3, 2014
Residents of Jisr az-Zarqa beckon Israel Trail hikers to enjoy their town