Aluf Ben  free press - Nir Keidar - 26012012
Haaretz chief editor Aluf Ben talking at a conference on the government assault on free press in Israel. Photo by Nir Keidar
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Israel's ranking in press freedom has dropped to 92nd place out of 179 countries in 2011, according to a report by Reporters Without Borders. The advocacy group dropped Israel six places, from 86th last year.

The report released on Wednesday cited as the reason for the lower ranking the possible indictment of Haaretz reporter Uri Blau for handling secret documents, plus the fact that he could face seven years in prison. The report also cites the four-and-half-year prison term handed down to soldier Anat Kam - who gave the documents to Blau - for passing on secret military documents.

Another reason is the libel legislation that greatly increases compensation fees for those convicted of libel, even without the need to prove damages.

Despite the media plurality in Israel, it does not rank among the first 50 states because of the military censorship practiced in it, the report says.

The Palestinian Authority was dropped three slots to 153, due to the attacks on journalists in Palestinian demonstrations.