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Sunday, October 25, 2009

How Reporters without Borders ranked Israel below the UAE and Kuwait in press freedom

In case you were wondering how it happened, here's how Reporters without Borders came to rank Israel below the UAE and Kuwait in press freedom (this came from an email from a gentleman named Aviv Sharon that was forwarded to me - it's his translation not mine):
From The Seventh Eye's Oren Persico's interview [original link in Hebrew. CiJ] with Reporters sans Frontiers' Soazig Dollet, head of the Middle East & North Africa department (my translation):
[Dollet] says Israel's ranking fell over the last year due to the behavior of the Israeli government and media, and not due to any political agenda on behalf of RSF. "Three journalists have been jailed in Israel due to their work, even if they've been accused of espionage. We take these cases into account", Dollet remarks, referring to Atta Najeeb Farhat, an Israeli journalist writing for Syrian outlets, and reporter Khader Shaheen and producer Mohammed Sirhan, convicted of negligently relaying information to the enemy and sentenced to two months in prison, after reporting the progression of Israeli ground troops towards the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead.

"Two foreign journalists have been deported from Israel", Dollet adds, referring to two Al-Jazeera journalists who were on board a ship sailing to Gaza. She argues that their deportation is not directly related to Israeli-controlled territories, so they were marked up against Israel within the '67 borders, rather than the seperate ranking for Israeli-controlled territories [beyond the Green Line].

"The military censorship on information also affected the drop in the ranking", Dollet continues, pointing criticism at Israeli media outlets, which [she finds?] have been reluctant to fight censorship policy. "The way the war was covered by Israeli media was also a consideration. During the war, for example, the Israeli media got information from the military alone. It wasn't able to check the information, nor did it want to".

Dollet sums up saying that all the circumstances add up to a drop in Israel's ranking. "One can tell this isn't a subjective approach, but basic fact", she argues.

Q: Still, when Israel is outranked by Kuwait or the UAE, it seems odd to many Israelis.

"If not for the military operation, matters would be different", Dollet explains. She says the basic liberties of journalists in Israel are greater than in countries that outrank it, but other countries haven't had journalists killed, imprisoned or denied access to the Gaza Strip for three weeks. "I agree there is no full freedom of the press in the Arab world, but there were certain facets of the situation in Israel we couldn't ignore."

Dollet says that the ranking of Israeli-controlled territories has dropped as well, to the 150th place, among other reasons due to repeated attacks by soldiers on journalists in the West Bank, the army shutting down a radio station in Bethlehem and confiscating equipment, killing at least two journalists during the course of their work in the Gaza war and attacking a media building as well as Hamas media outlets. "Even if Israelis regarded them military targets, they were still media outlets attacked", Dollet emphasizes.

Israel's ranking, Dollet clarifies, was determined by averaging answers to RSF questionnaries distributed to four media professionals and experts on life in Israel. Among respondents were journalist Gideon Levy and three more who asked to remain anonymous: a foreign corespondent living in Israel and two representatives of media watchdog NGOs. Dollet filled out another questionnaire herself using information collected by the organization year-round.


Q: Are four respondents enough?

A: "These are four people who know the topic up close. In other countries I recieved ten answers, and in some, just three. [Dollet repeats that further data was collected year-round and cross-checked with RSF reps]."

Q: Does the motivation behind hurting the freedom of the press matter? Does it matter that the media tower attacked contained weapons?

A: "No."

Q: "Does the charge of espionage change the ranking?"

A: "The charge matters less. What matters is that the journalist was doing his job. We didn't count journalists killed while at home, in civilian capacity. We only included journalists killed in the course of their work, reporting with a camera or a microphone. We think journalists should respect the law, and authorities have the right to condemn journalists, but arresting journalists due to the course of their work, that's intolerable. There are plenty of ways to punish journalists without arresting them. The sanction should be proportional to the felony the journalist committed, and arresting a journalist due to the course of their work is always disproportionate".
So Hamas media outlets are off the hook and untouchable targets, and Hamas also gets to use media outlet buildings as weapon caches and launching pads. And if you want to spy in Israel, all you need is a camera and a mic and you're scott free. I'm sure Mr. Haniya is delighted with the RSF report.
For the record, here's one reason why an 'international media outlet' (al-Arabiya in this case) may have been targeted during Operation Cast Lead. Let's go to the videotape.

More here.

By the way, isn't it amazing how all these international organizations deem us to be occupying Gaza when it's convenient for them, and not occupying Gaza when that is more convenient for them?

For those of you who have forgotten Gideon Levy, here's my commentary on a recent article written by him.


At 6:16 PM, Blogger Lauran said...

Well, they have a point, I mean no Israeli journalists were imprisoned in those Arab countries... OH WAIT - that's because Jews aren't allowed into those countries!!!

If this wasn't a true story, it might actually be funny.

At 6:21 PM, Blogger Finally Free said...

Gideon effin Levy was one of the four journos interviewed?!

His columns should be clipped out and kept in the bathroom as emergency emetics. Dr. Sanity could write a 2nd Ph.D. on him. He's a classic case of what she (oxymoronically) calls "selfless narcissism".

At 7:40 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Israel, the only free society in the Middle East... the only one with a relatively unfettered press, gets a lower score from journalists than Arab autocracies that have a state-controlled media and which practice censorship on a daily basis! That says more about them than it does about Israel.

What could go wrong indeed


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