What a contrast…writes Michael Kuttner/J-Wire

June 26, 2014 by Michael Kuttner
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The recently concluded Jewish media summit in Jerusalem demonstrated yet again the vivid contrast between press freedoms as practiced in Israel and the Arab/Moslem countries which lose no opportunity to pillory the Middle East’s only genuine democracy.

The essence of press freedom is the right to criticize and oppose and in order for this to occur journalists concerned must be able to report without fearing that they will be arrested, incarcerated and possibly killed. There may be security reasons why they are unable to visit certain areas but generally speaking in order for full and factual reporting to be guaranteed they must have unfettered access to officials and be free to voice their opinions, no matter how outrageous.

Samer Shhallabi                Photo: Henry Benjamin

Samer Shalabi     Photo: Henry Benjamin

The Jewish media conference was a perfect example of how diverse views from across the whole political spectrum were given full rein. We were exposed to opinions from left to right and those participating could rest easy knowing that not only would they not be lynched but that at the end of the day they would be free to leave and reach their homes safely.

In a splendid example of Israel’s democratic credentials participants were exposed to the views of Palestinian Arab journalists who were free to make as many outrageous assertions as they liked and to blame Israel for any and all failures. Thus, the newly elected chairman of the Foreign Press Association, Samer Shalabi, a Palestinian Arab, could without fear criticize the fact that he is subjected to security checks every time he wants to travel to Jerusalem from Ramallah. The fact that travelers wanting to arrive or leave the USA or most other countries are also subjected to having their shoes removed and being scanned seemed irrelevant, but despite his emphasis on Israel’s security inconveniences he was free to voice his views unhindered. Likewise Elias Zananiri, a Palestinian Arab journalist with close connections to the Palestinian Authority, was free to assert that the 3 teenage boys kidnapped were in

Elias Zananiri              Photo: Henry Benjamin

Elias Zananiri             Photo: Henry Benjamin

fact terrorist settlers and that Israel was solely responsible for the collapse of the peace talks (which never ever started). In addition he could safely assert that the charter of Hamas which calls for the physical elimination of the Jewish State and its Jewish citizens was no different to any political manifesto of those Israeli political parties which are against a two state solution.

These examples of freedom of expression given in front of a Jewish audience highlight the fact that in Israel there is genuine press freedom.

Contrast this with the current situation in Egypt where journalists, including an Australian, have been arrested and sentenced to lengthy jail terms. Their alleged crime? Reporting about the true situation in Egypt today. Journalists throughout the democratic world are up in arms over this travesty and are holding demonstrations. Editorials have appeared in the international press denouncing this situation but I doubt that any of them have contrasted the plight of journalists in Egypt, Iran, Syria etc. with the actual situation in Israel where a free press is the norm.

Double standards? What’s new?


Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel. He now lives in Israel and is J-Wire’s correspondent in the region.



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