The Government Press Office (GPO) is considering granting leading bloggers press credentials equal to those of journalists and reporters.
Ron Dermer, a senior adviser to the prime minister, took the opportunity to formally recognize the work bloggers do in defending Israel and uncovering fraudulent claims against the Jewish state at the International Jewish Bloggers Convention last week.
Lauding the work of bloggers in defending Israel, Dermer claimed that "The blogger [Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs] who revealed Reuters' doctoring of images during the Second Lebanon War did as much as any Israeli intelligence officer did."
Following Dermer's praise of the work bloggers do in protecting Israel, he was asked by leading blogger "Jameel" of the Muqata blog whether the government would consider extending bloggers the same accreditation afforded to journalists.
In his response, Dermer stated at the Jewish Bloggers Convention in Jerusalem that the "government should identify a number of good bloggers, serious bloggers, and give them journalist IDs."
Asked about Dermer's statement, Government Press Office Director Daniel Seaman told The Jerusalem Post: "The GPO doesn't determine who is or isn't a journalist - and that has to be stressed. The Supreme Court made that decision years ago and the Press Office merely issues the press passes based on whether people qualify."
"The GPO constantly updates its guidelines to reflect changes in the media," Seaman added, before explaining: "We issue press credentials to journalists who meet the criteria and any person who believes that he or she meets these criteria is invited to file a request with us."
Seaman noted that his "personal experience is that the advent of bloggers has been very essential in the exposure of photography fraud. I don't think that the Al-Dura case would have gotten so much prominence and wouldn't have been shot down so quickly if bloggers didn't have the influence that they have."
He was referring to blogs like Professor Richard Landes's The Augean Stables, which played a significant role in uncovering "the al-Dura Affair" of 2000, in which French television broadcast footage shot by a Palestinian cameraman of a Palestinian child supposedly being killed by Israeli forces. After thorough research, Landes concluded that the footage had likely been faked.
"I think it's for the benefit of professional journalism. Bloggers have become the watchdog of the watchdog - they fulfill an important role in ensuring that the media adhere to their roles," Seaman added.
While governments in countries such as America, France, the UK and India formally recognize bloggers as important purveyors of information, Israeli bloggers are compelled to work away from the news-scene due to the current lack of licensing.
As a result, although blogs in America are hugely important in forming public opinion with sites like The Huffington Post, The Atlantic and Little Green Footballs, Israeli blogs are not regarded in the same way and as yet do not have significant input on public opinion in Israel. But at the convention, bloggers made numerous references to the fact that their work is often picked up by mainstream media outlets such as television stations and newspapers.
The sentiment expressed by the bloggers was one of pride that their work was contributing to shaping the news and forming public opinion, but at the same time they expressed an overwhelming sense of deep frustration that blogs and other "parallel media" are not regarded with the same respect as the mainstream media, and are often "preyed upon" by major news corporations without being given due credit for their work.
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