Status: Free
Legal Environment: 5
Political Influences: 13
Economic Pressures: 10
Total Score: 28

Population: n/a
GNI/capita: n/a
Life Expectancy: 80
Religious Groups: Jewish (76.5 percent), Muslim [mostly Sunni] (15.9 percent), Christian (2.1 percent), other 5.5 percent
Ethnic Groups: Jewish (80 percent), non-Jewish [mostly Arab] (20 percent)
Capital: Jerusalem

Press freedom is generally respected in Israel, and the country features a vibrant media landscape. Journalists are occasionally subject to official restrictions; however, an independent judiciary and active civil society adequately protect the free media. Hate speech and publishing praise of violence is prohibited, and the 1948 Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance prohibits expressions of support for terrorist organizations or groups that call for the destruction of Israel. In 2004, the Supreme Court denied a government appeal to uphold a ban on granting press credentials to Palestinians. Israel's Government Press Office (GPO) earlier ceased issuing press cards to Palestinians on security grounds, claiming some Palestinians posing as journalists used the cards to gain entry into Israel to carry out or abet terrorist attacks. In July, pressure from press and civil rights groups led the GPO to reinstate the credentials of Yishai Carmeli-Polak, a reporter highly critical of government policies.

While newspaper and magazine articles on security matters are subject to a military censor, the scope of permissible reporting is wide and there is a broad range of published material. Editors may appeal a censorship decision to a three-member tribunal that includes two civilians, and publications cannot be shuttered because of censorship violations. Arabic-language publications are censored more frequently than are Hebrew-language ones, and Arab-Israeli journalists are subject to greater restrictions than their Jewish counterparts. In March, the daily Ha'aretz and the Channel 2 television station were both made to apologize for failing to submit to the censor reports on the sale of military technology to China. That same month, BBC News similarly apologized to the government for not submitting for review an interview with Mordechai Vanunu, an Israeli citizen imprisoned for 18 years for espionage and disclosing information about Israel's nuclear weapons program; the government demanded the apology before renewing the visa of the BBC Jerusalem deputy bureau chief. Vanunu's release from prison in 2004 was conditioned on a series of restrictions on his speech and movement. In March, the government warned Vanunu he would be brought to trial if he continued to speak to foreign media (among other prohibitions), a move condemned by the International Federation of Journalists.

A wide variety of newspapers, reflecting a broad range of political viewpoints and religious outlooks, is available in Israel. All newspapers are privately owned and freely criticize government policy. Newspapers must be licensed by the locality in which they are published. A diverse range of broadcast media is also available. The Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) operates public radio and television services, including the popular Kol Yisrael radio station. In October, press freedom advocates voiced concern over plans to establish an IBA governing board made up of political appointees. There are also commercial television networks and radio stations, and most Israelis subscribe to cable or satellite television. Internet access is widespread with over 3 million users and remains unrestricted by the government.

This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.