Israeli Journalists Hold Urgent Meeting on Defending Freedom of Press

Haaretz editor-in-chief and leading media personalities take part in emergency conference aimed at 'stopping the sweeping attacks on the media'.

Revital Blumenfeld
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Revital Blumenfeld

Top reporters, editors and representatives from the Israeli media convened on Sunday for an emergency conference aimed at defending freedom of the press in the country.

The conference, held at Tel Avivs cinematheque, was called in response to a recent downsizing in Israeli media outlets, the pending closure of Israels second commercial television channel, Channel 10, and a bill toughening Israeli libel laws.

The event's poster, saying "Free Media - emergency conference," at Tel Aviv’s cinematheque, November 20, 2011.Credit: Nir Keidar

Some of Israels leading journalists and media personalities spoke at the event, including Haaretz editor-in-chief Aluf Ben, and top journalists Yair Lapid and Ayala Hasson.

This is the first event of this kind, uniting Israeli media to counter what they view is an assault on free press. Conference organizers promise event will be opening shot to a series of steps, planned for the upcoming weeks, aimed at stopping the sweeping attack on the media.

The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee last month approved an amendment to the current libel law that, if approved by Knesset, would result in a substantial hike to the maximum damages paid and would loosen the criteria for slander and libel. Criticis of the amendment believe this will hamper freedom of expression and the independent press.

In addition to amendments and legislation being tossed around Knesset, recent action taken against journalists seen as highly critical of the government has caused many to fear an organized silencing of dissenting voices.

Keren Neubach was dismissed from her position as anchorwoman of Mabat Sheni (Second Glance), Channel Ones news magazine show. Neubach who held the position for three years, is considered highly critical of the government and many view her dismissal as politically motivated.

I am concerned with the connection between the assault on the press and that on the judicial system, veteran investigative journalist Ilana Dayan told participants of the conference. Someone is afraid of dogged press and a critical Supreme Court.

Channel 2 News anchor Yair Lapid warned: "An incompetent government is silencing dissenting voices."

Raviv Druker, of Channel 10, said. "Both the government and the rich are a threat to free press."