Israel strangles freedom of speech
It has been a sad week for democracy in Israel as the stranglehold on state-run media became official.
During the week Naftalie Bennet, the education minister, was quoted as saying: “We are here to rule the people even if the media don’t like it.”
Ayalet Shaked, the justice minister, responded on social media by saying that, as rulers, we need to make no apology.
On 7 September the Knessett, the Israeli parliament, adopted by a majority a bill preventing journalists working for state-owned media from giving opinions on public figures or internal issues.
Earlier this year, when the ruling coalition was formed, Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu Party, which has 10 seats in the Knesset, supported a proposal for news censorship.
A reporter from Channel 1 TV, Tal Schneider, leaked documents which show that Kahlon and his party had agreed to support any bill regarding communications submitted by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – who is also Communications Minister, and his Likud Party. The Kulanu Party also agreed not to back any appeal or dissent.
It would appear that this particular agreement helped Kulano get into the coalition, thereby allowing Netanyahu to form a government.
It is becoming increasingly clear that Netanyahu has opted to rule rather than lead in a democratic manner. It is also obvious that the new law is one reason why Bennett and Shaked had the audacity to refer to themselves as rulers and speak of ruling the people.
To censor journalists who should be free to air their opinions was once thought unthinkable. But Netanyahu recently complained that he “cannot rule people like this”.
Indeed, the word “rule” has been featuring in government rhetoric increasingly frequently since the elections.
As an independent journalist taking part in Walk4kids, a 50-mile walk to draw the world’s attention to the plight of children who are removed from their parents by the Israeli state, it is vital for me to get stories directly from the people.
In the process, I have learned that thanks to state control of the news and a wall of domestic and international propaganda, people get to know about such injustices only when they become victims of the justice system and its corruption.
The question now being asked is how social media will be affected. In fact, discussions are already underway to stop officials from expressing opinions on Facebook and other social networks in case freedom of expression gives a negative impression of Israel.
How long will it be before the all significant stories are so censored that Israel becomes as secretive as full-blown dictatorships?
Previously published on Redressonline.com