Israeli reporter resigns after 40 years: 'Freedom of press at risk'

Matzliach urged journalists to "to protect the freedom of the press and freedom of expression."

 Channel 12 news anchor and journalist, Rina Matzliach at a conference of the Israeli Television News Company in Jerusalem on March 7, 2021 (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Channel 12 news anchor and journalist, Rina Matzliach at a conference of the Israeli Television News Company in Jerusalem on March 7, 2021
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Israeli journalist Rina Matzliach announced that she was resigning on Sunday after nearly 40 years in the press, stressing that she was worried about the state of freedom of press in Israel.

"I retire wholeheartedly, with great sadness and concern," wrote Matzliach in a letter to the employees of N12, where she served as an anchor on the Meet the Press show. "In my entire adult life, I did nothing but be a journalist. For years, this profession defined me and I enjoyed every moment."

"I have fulfilled dreams that I did not dare to dream. I also broke a few glass ceilings. But that's it, it's time to say goodbye," added Matzliach. "I feel like I need a rest. I'm also, and perhaps mainly, tired of my field of coverage: politics. I'm no longer excited to come to the Knesset and I'm not really excited to interview another minister and another member of the Knesset."

The N12 anchor referenced threats she received while working as a journalist, including what she called a "very severe personal attack" against her about two years ago.

"I wasn't scared by the letters threatening my life, and I cleaned my cell phone of the thousands of hateful messages that were also addressed to my late beloved parents. But over time I realized that after all I was left with a severe scar," wrote Matzliach. "The attackers, who were organized and activated by political forces, did not scare me. I continued to speak my mind, but something in me broke."

 Israeli journalist Rina Matzliach (credit: MOSHE SHAI/FLASH90) Israeli journalist Rina Matzliach (credit: MOSHE SHAI/FLASH90)

"I have learned in recent years that there are two political camps in Israel. One actively wants to harm the free and independent press, and the other at best, 'doesn't deal with it,' and at worst, tries to silence journalists from the opposite camp," added the reporter.

Addressing fellow journalists, Matzliach stressed "Your profession is journalism - but your mission is to protect the freedom of the press and freedom of expression. I told you about the terrible attack I went through. I did not for a moment consider suing any of the attackers who defamed me. I thought, and I still think so today, that we journalists need to grasp the most expansive meaning of freedom of expression because this is the obligatory derivative of our work."

"I'm sure that some of you are asking yourselves now - what is she talking about? Who is stopping us from speaking our minds?" added Matzliach. "The damage to the freedom of the press is not direct, but the intensification of competition often leads to rounding corners, to stretching professional principles, not being precise in the rules of ethics, fear of shaming on the networks, fear of damaging sources, all of this weakens the independence of the journalist. I believe that every journalist should grow a backbone because only this will guarantee them long-term success."

Past controversy surrounding Matzliach

In 2020, Matzliach was suspended by N12 for a week after stating that “Netanyahu supporters say they would still vote for him if he raped their daughter.”

The comments sparked outrage, with Netanyahu stating at the time "Your sick hatred for Likud voters and for me reached a new abyss. First, you called us blind herd and now you say things I cannot even repeat, and you still dare to call yourself a journalist.”