Israeli Police Close Jewish-Palestinian Radio Station as Attacks on Freedom of Press Intensify
Originally published on Tikkun Daily.
Israel’s newspaper Haaretz has declared that “democracy in Israel is under attack,” citing legislative measures limiting freedom of the press as one of the most troubling symptoms of this assault by hawkish lawmakers.
On Sunday, for the first time ever, many of Israel’s most influential journalists and media personalities gathered for an emergency conference in Tel Aviv to discuss alarming attempts by conservative lawmakers to silence dissenting, critical voices in the press.
One of the issues about which journalists are apoplectic is a current amendment – pending legislative approval – which would effectively allow anyone to lob charges of libel or slander against journalists with laughably low burdens of proof. The amendment, approved last month by the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, would create a chilling legislative precedent clearly aimed at silencing left-leaning and critical voices in the media.
Journalists also discussed a number of politically-motivated actions taken against critical journalists. From Haaretz:
In addition to amendments and legislation being tossed around in the 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 One’s 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.
Channel 2 News anchor Yair Lapid warned: “An incontinent government is silencing dissenting voices.”
A most disturbing example of such silencing happened this past Thursday, when a small radio station run jointly by a Jew and a Palestinian out of offices in both Jerusalem and Ramallah – Kol Hashalom – was forced to shut down at the behest of far-right wing Likud Knesset member (and Greater Israel proponent) Danny Danon.
As Yossi Gurvitz in +972 Magazine reports:
Kol Hashalom, which roughly means “All for Peace,” had been active for the last seven years. It was a joint venture of the Palestinian NGO Biladi and the Israeli NGO Jewish-Arab Center for Peace, and was directed by former Meretz [Knesset members] Mossi Raz and Meissa Bransie-Senyura. The station broadcast from Ramallah, under a license granted by the Palestinian Authority.
In September…Danny Danon demanded that the station be shut down. Danon claimed the station was “inciting against Israel,” specifically that it was calling upon people “to reject political decisions arrived at democratically.” To wit, to support Palestinian statehood.
So at the behest of Danon, Israeli authorities – claiming the station was illegal using specious arguments – sent Raz a letter demanding that the station’s Jerusalem and Ramallah offices be shuttered, despite the fact that the station itself broadcasts on a Palestinian-Authority-granted frequency.
Demanding that this joint Palestinian-Jewish station close has little to do with legal arguments and much to do with silencing those who voice clear support for Palestinian statehood. In other words, as Lapid warned, “an incontinent government is silencing dissenting voices” not just within the Green Line, but in the West Bank as well.
Gurvitz and Raz agree:
This stinks to high heaven, and looks suspiciously like – as Raz says openly – a part of the continuing effort of Netanyahu and his right-wing allies to overtake the media and silence their political rivals. Raz, fearing a raid on the Jerusalem offices, ordered the broadcasts to be shut down on Thursday, and now Kol Hashalom is preparing an appeal to the High Court of Justice.
Moshe Negbi, author of The Freedom of the Journalist and Freedom of the Press in Israel, recently wrote in Haaretz that Israel is on its way to becoming the only democracy in the world without a free press.
And that’s a chilling thought.
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