Sunday, May 3, 2009

Israel Slips in its Free Press Ranking

Freedom House which is an NGO that monitors and promotes freedoms throughout the world has issued its global list of freedoms of the press. Israel, along with Italy have for the first time slipped from a free press categorization to a partly free classification. (The press release from Freedom House about the study is here and links to information about the study such as tables and maps is here.)


In a nutshell, the free press study is conducted by asking a series of questions to evaluate the impact or law, politics and the economic environment on freedom of the press. Then, countries are scored on a 0-100 scale where 0 is the freest press and 100 the most controlled. The methodology is explained in greater detail here. Anything from 0-30 is considered to be a country with a free press. Canada, the US and Australia all ranked as free (Iceland was deemed to be the most free.) The entire list is available here.


Israel came in as a 31, just within the limits of what is considered a partially free press. The reason for this change in classification from previous years when the Israeli press had been considered free was due to "the heightened conflict in Gaza, which triggered increased travel restrictions on both Israeli and foreign reporters; official attempts to influence media coverage of the conflict within Israel; and greater self-censorship and biased reporting, particularly during the outbreak of open war in late December."

What this means then, is that the one point nudging Israel over the 30 point line is due to activities that took place over a short period of time during conflict. The conflict in Gaza took place before this blog existed, but had this blog been around at the time it would have expressed regret that journalists were seeing their freedoms limited, but would have acknowledged the need for some censorship in times of war. There seems to be no recognition built into the study to recognize that the freedom of the press in Israel was limited in a time of war and that it was temporary and likely justifiable for security reasons. It is unclear if the study recognizes that any country in a state of war will want to limit the media's ability to report on certain matters in the interests of security without limiting the presses freedom to publish freely on whatever other issues it chooses, including, for example, criticism of the very limitations being imposed.

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