Israel Government and Media
Government Type: Parliamentary Democracy
Leader: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Head of the State: President (nasi in Hebrew) is Reuven Rivlin and the position is largely ceremonial.
Political Party: Likud Party
Political Position: Center-Right
World Press Freedom Rank: Israel 88/180
In 2020 Reporters Without Borders ranked Israel 88/180 in their Press Freedom Index, stating there is a “Toxic environment” for journalism, and “because of self-censorship, there is little or no coverage of the reality of life in the Palestinian territories.”
The State of Israel has a mixed model of public and commercial networks. The state broadcaster of Israel is Public Broadcasting Corporation (known as KAN) which replaced Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) that was shut down by the government in 2017. Further, the State of Israel also operates its own advertisement agency, known as Lapam, which “centralizes all government advertisements, announcements, and notices. This includes providing access to the list of government tenders and to civil service employment opportunities.” The governing body of IPBC (KAN) consists of 12 public representatives who are appointed by the Minister of Communication. IPBC broadcasts Kan 11, Makan 33 and satellite feeds such as HOT cable company, the YES satellite company, and currently operates 8 radio stations. Commercial networks are also issued broadcasting licenses by the state such as Keshet Media Group which is controlled by the Tshuva family and the Wertheim family, while Reshet 13 is controlled by Len Blavatnik. Defense Forces (IDF) also runs two popular networks called Galei Zahal and Galgalatz. The newsprint media market is dominated by powerful family-owned papers such as Israel Hayom owned by American-Jewish tycoon Sheldon Adelson, Yedioth Ahronoth Group owned by the Moses family, Haaretz newspaper, owned by the Schocken Family (largest shareholder), and Maariv owned by businessman Eli Azur who also owns the Jerusalem Post Group.
Government Influence on Media: The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is the military force of Israel that imposes military censorship on grounds of security and safety, which is done through an agreement with the Editor’s Committee. Unique to Israel, its job is to facilitate “exchanges between the government and the press, essentially encouraging self-censorship”. The censorship agreement was originally signed in 1949 with the 1996 version currently being practiced. In addition, the Government Press Office is responsible for issuing Press Cards for Journalists. This is the “Press Card” application form that is required to be signed by journalists to obtain a press card. For more details please view the application form under the payment and declarations section. Finally, in a Jerusalem Post article titled “IDF Military Censor banned nearly 300 articles last year” they state that “The Israeli military censor banned the publication of 271 articles in 2017 and partially or fully redacted another 2,087 news stories that had been submitted for review.”
According to a Human Rights Watch 2019 report, Israel uses broadly worded draconian military orders to arrest Palestinian journalists. Further, the UN Refugee Agency reports “the GPO has occasionally refused to provide press cards – especially to Palestinians – on national security grounds, thus preventing the affected reporters from entering Israel.” For example, in 2017, Israel revoked an Al-Jazeera reporter’s press permit on grounds of his remarks, which caused The Government Press Office to question his objectivity to cover the Israel-Palestinian conflict. In conclusion, there is significant self and direct censorship of Israeli media due to military censorship as well as documented bias against Palestinian reporters.