The Israeli media enjoy real freedom, but Palestinian journalists experience major difficulties in exercising their profession.
The leading privately owned TV channel, Channel 12, and Israel’s public radio and TV broadcaster hold an important place in the media landscape. Ynet is the most widely read news website, while the daily newspaper Haaretz has a great deal of influence despite a limited number of readers. The dailies Yedioth Ahronoth and the free-of-charge Israel Hayom (Israel Today) are the leading print media competitors. Israel also has Arabic and Russian-language media outlets, and an openly partisan press catering to ultra-Orthodox Jews.
Politicians have a great deal of influence over appointments to the broadcasting regulators. Former prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu, who has enjoyed Israel Hayom’s unfailing support for more than a decade, is accused in corruption cases of trying to influence the editorial policies of several media outlets in exchange for political favours.
Under Israel’s military censorship, reporting on a variety of security issues requires prior approval by the authorities. In addition to the possibility of civil defamation suits, journalists can also be charged with criminal defamation and “insulting a public official”. There is a freedom of information law but it is sometimes hard to implement. The confidentiality of sources is not protected by statutory law but by case law.
Israel’s media are centralised and unprofitable. They are often owned by large corporations or businessmen who are difficult to investigate and who use them to pressure regulators and elected officials.
Arab journalists in Israel encounter more difficulties in their work than their Jewish counterparts, above all because of the tensions inherent in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Gangs restrict Arab media coverage of criminal activity while women are almost completely excluded from the ultra-Orthodox Jewish media.
Several smear campaigns against the media have been carried out by politicians, as well as their party and supporters. The journalists in question were harassed or received threats, requiring them to be placed under protection. Palestinian journalists are systematically subjected to violence as a result of their coverage of events in the West Bank. Israeli reporters are barred from visiting the Gaza Strip.