The media of Israel refers to print, broadcast and online media available in the State of Israel. The country boasts dozens of newspapers, magazines, and radio stations, which play an important role by the press in political, social and cultural life and cater it to a modern, developed and literate society.
There are over 10 different languages in the Israeli media, with Hebrew as the predominant one. Press in Arabic caters to the Arab citizens of Israel, with readers from areas including those governed by the Palestinian National Authority. During the eighties and nineties, the Israeli press underwent a process of significant change as the media gradually came to be controlled by a limited number of organizations, whereas the papers published by political parties began to disappear. Today, three large, privately owned conglomerates based in Tel Aviv dominate the mass media in Israel.
Censorship in Israel is relatively low compared to other countries, but may be exercised only when it is certain that publication of the item in question would harm public safety. When an item is censored, the newspaper may appeal the censor's ruling to a "committee of three," composed of a member of the public (who serves as the chairman), a representative of the army and a representative of the press. The decisions of the committee are binding, and over the years it has in many cases overruled the decision of the censor.
The history of the press began in 1863, before Israeli independence and during the Ottoman Empire, with Ha-Levanon and Havazzelet being the first weekly Hebrew newspapers established. In 1952, the International Publishing Company J-M Ltd was established as the state's first book publisher. Censorship was regularly enforced in years after independence, throughout the Yom Kippur War and the 1970s. In 1986, the government allowed for the establishment of private and commercial media outlets to run in competition with state media.
The Israeli government generally respects freedom of the press, which is protected by the Basic Laws of Israel and independent judiciary. Hate speech, and publishing praise of violence or issues of national security is prohibited. While Israeli journalists operate with little restriction, the government has placed more restrictions on Palestinian journalists working in the region, as Reporters Without Borders alleges that the authorities entered Palestinian offices and homes looking for "illegal material".[full ] The media does carry criticism of government policy.
Publication of a newspaper in Israel is illegal without a permit from the government, which continues to implement the Press Ordinance enacted by the Mandatory Government in 1933. Permits can be refused for a variety of reasons, including that the proprietor is less than 25 years old or has a criminal record or insufficient education. An investigation by Haaretz early in 2016 revealed that in the preceding decade at least 62 out of more than 500 permit applications had been rejected. Other regulations, including the 1945 Defence (Emergency) Regulations, can also be used to regulate newspaper publication.
Following the 2017 Qatar diplomatic crisis Israel took steps to ban Qatar-based Al Jazeera by closing its Jerusalem office, revoking press cards, and asking cable and satellite broadcasters not to broadcast al-Jazeera. Defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, had described some of al-Jazeera reports as "Nazi Germany-style" propaganda. It was not clear if the measures covered Al Jazeera English, considered less strident.
Freedom House publishes an annual Freedom of the Press report. The 2013 report described Israel as having "the freest press in the region" but downgraded its status from "Free" to "Partly Free" in response to "the indictment of journalist Uri Blau for possession of state secrets, the first time this law had been used against the press in several decades, as well as instances of politicized interference with the content of the Israel Broadcasting Authority radio programs and concerns surrounding the license renewal of television's Channel 10."
In 2015 Reporters Without Borders ranked Israel 96th in their Press Freedom Index, after Kuwait, North Cyprus, Kosovo and Mozambique. The results for Israel and the Palestinian National Authority from 2002 to the present are shown below, with lower numbers indicating better treatment of reporters:
|Year||Israel (Israeli territory)||Israel (extraterritorial)||Palestinian Authority||No. of national entities rated||Report URL|
Israel has a large number of dailies, weeklies and periodicals, all privately owned.