Freedom House puts politics ahead of human rightsIsrael HaYom hands out newspapers for free!
Israel declined due to the growing impact of Yisrael Hayom, whose owner-subsidized business model endangered the stability of other media outlets, and the unchecked expansion of paid content—some of it government funded—whose nature was not clearly identified to the public.For the uninitiated, Israel HaYom is owned by that villain Sheldon Adelson, and is handed out for free on street corners and at traffic lights throughout the country. It lives on advertising, and has become the number one circulating hard-copy newspaper in the country, much to the chagrin of Haaretz (which has almost no hard-copy presence and exists as a web site for foreigners) and Yediot Aharonot (previously the top-ranking tabloid). In fact, the Freedom House report reads like Haaretz talking points.
Every newspaper in this country has 'paid government content' - legal notices and the like. There are many more here than in many other Western countries because every government tender and every public offering of securities (among other things) has to be published in two newspapers. But the people issuing the tender (local authorities) and the issuer of the securities (to stay with those two examples) have the right to choose in which newspapers they will publicize. Moreover, Freedom House gives no indication of how the 'paid content' in 2016 compares to past years, nor does it give any indication how much more (if any) 'content' goes to Yisrael HaYom than to any other newspaper.
The result is that while Israel is still the freest country in the Middle East and North Africa, Freedom House has downgraded our press from 'Free' to 'Partly Free' and our worldwide rank has declined to 65 (62 countries are rated 'Free') - behind countries like Chile and Uruguay and most of Europe (Norway is ranked #1, Belgium, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands are tied for #2, the US is ranked #28 and the UK is ranked #41). Ghana was the only other country that declined from 'Free' to 'Partly Free' this year.
Israel's downgrading reeks of politics. Politics should play no role in this type of ranking. Shame on Freedom House!