RSF deplores attempts to intimidate Israeli newspaper critical of war in Gaza

The left-wing daily Haaretz is an exception in an Israeli media ecosystem where pluralism is increasingly absent. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the growing attempts to intimidate this newspaper since 7 October, due to its coverage of the war in Gaza’s impact and its criticism of the Israeli government.

An unidentified man smashed the glass entrance to Haaretz’s office in Tel Aviv on the morning of 5 June. This was the first physical attack against the newspaper but the latest in a series of threats and intimidation attempts. Accused by Israeli government supporters of being the “Hamas newspaper,” it is being subjected to more and more harassment because of its coverage of the Gaza war.

In a report published by the newspaper after the attack, its management said it had contacted the police, who were following the case. Security camera footage shows a man approaching the glass entrance, smashing it with a sharp metal object, and then fleeing.

Later on 5 June, Haaretz Jerusalem correspondent Nir Hasson, freelance Palestinian journalist Saif Kwasmi and 15 other Palestinian journalists who were covering a “Flag Day” march in East Jerusalem were physically attacked by young nationalists taking part in the march, including settlers.

Haaretz investigative reporter Gur Megiddo revealed to The Guardian newspaper on 30 May that he had been threatened by senior Israeli security officials in a bid to prevent him from covering former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen’s attempts to intimidate former International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda nearly two years ago. 

In a post on X on 23 November 2023, communications minister Shlomo Karhi announced that he had submitted a proposal to the government to terminate funding for Haaretz because of its anti-Israeli propaganda.” Other public figures have referred to Haaretz editor Gideon Levytraitor for running a newspaper worse than Al Jazeera – the Qatari TV news channel whose operations in Israel were closed by the government in May on the grounds that it was serving as a “Hamas mouthpiece.”

“The defamation and attacks against Haaretz are continuing the Israeli strategy of stifling outspoken coverage of the war in Gaza, a strategy that is contributing to the destruction of media pluralism in Israel. Haaretz is one of the few media outlets to question the Israeli authorities and hold them to account. The unacceptable harassment of this media must stop immediately and those responsible must be prosecuted.

Anne Bocandé
RSF's editorial director

The attempts to intimidate Haaretz come amid growing press censorship in Israel. Under Israeli law, journalists must submit any article concerning “security matters” to a military censor for review before publication. According to an investigation by the +972 Magazine news site, Israeli military censors banned a total of 613 media articles in 2023, setting a new record since the magazine began collecting such data in 2011. The censors also redacted parts of 2,703 other articles, the highest figure since 2014.

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