More Attempts to Silence Independent Media in Israel

During the last few weeks, an item has been reported by a number of media organizations about the Ministry of Communications’ decision to cancel its support for “Israel Social TV” because it “undermines the foundations of the state and provides a platform to delegitimize Israeli soldiers.” The decision came after the movement “Reservists on the Front” turned their attention to reports produced by Israel Social TV including its coverage of the women’s flotilla to Gaza

Social TV’s reportage of the 2014 May Day parade in Tel-Aviv

Social TV’s reportage of the 2014 May Day parade in Tel-Aviv (Photo: Social TV)

First, it is hoped that the decision made by the General Director of the Ministry of Communications and his staff was made after a thorough examination of the matter, and in accordance with relevant procedures, rules and regulations, and not because of pressure from political parties. If indeed this is his own decision (which of course has no validity since it was taken without proper proceedings), it can certainly be seen as yet another trial balloon aimed to please an audience sympathetic to statements of the likes of the Minister of Culture, Miri Regev, and other members of the Netanyahu government.

Israel Social TV is eligible for Communications Ministry support by virtue of its being a community broadcasting organization aired on cable Channel 98 and not by standard broadcasting or satellite. Israel Social TV meets all the criteria for support which, of course, is not contingent on the popularity of its reports among viewers or government officials.

Attempts by the Ministry of Communications to silence and intimidate critics by withholding budgets (which appears to be the prevailing sentiment among the general public), will not succeed. Israel Social TV will not acquiesce to attempts to intimidate and silence it. If it allegedly carries reports that may possibly incite or break the law, it would behoove the Director General of the Ministry of Communications to point them out and explain what’s wrong with them. At the same time, the Council for Cable and Satellite Broadcasting controls content transmitted via channel 98 and can already censure broadcasters for showing inflammatory content.

More to the point, IsraelSocial TV extensively covered the women’s flotilla that departed from Barcelona to Gaza. The possibility of covering the flotilla succeeded when a volunteer from Israel Social TV participated in the flotilla itself. She photographed and reported the first leg of the journey from Barcelona to Sicily. Many Israeli journalists queued up to get access, including a correspondent for Channel 2 but, at the last minute, due to the capsizing of one of the boats, the number of women participating in the flotilla was reduced by half. The inclusion of a Israel Social TV reporter on the flotilla is a first-rate journalistic achievement.

The claim that Israel Social TV’s sympathetic coverage of the flotilla is “undermining the foundations of the state and provides a platform to delegitimize IDF soldiers” is simply outrageous. Especially egregious are claims that Israel Social TV did not provide counter criticism of the flotilla to balance the story.

When the dominant voice in the media and in the public is one which damns the flotilla and calls the women who participated in it “collaborators with terrorism,” Israel Social TV brings another narrative – the narrative of the women who chose to take part in the flotilla and who aired their opinions about the Israeli government and the situation in Gaza.

Also, the argument that reporting must be “balanced” is obsolete. This argument was perhaps suitable in an earlier time when Channel 1 was the only channel broadcasting in Israel, and it was the only way we received television news. Today, however, for every subject there is a variety of views, reports and commentaries coming from dozens of agencies with different agendas. Finally, we believe the viewer must form his or her own opinion on this or that issue. Israel Social TV was not intended to provide the “full picture” – there is no such thing. Even when we watch a cooking show, which seems to be the most innocent of programs, we are not shown the whole picture – we do not see the marketing content and the various underlying interests. And, of course, no one takes into account the opinions of animal rights organizations or the animal’s suffering before becoming a juicy steak.

The role of Israel Social TV is to supplement the picture that the viewer sees in the mainstream media and to present another angle on issues and events, and to allow viewers to form their own opinions, challenging the mainstream and enabling a lively discussion of views, attitudes, and opinions while including groups that are not always fairly represented.

There is little doubt that the Ministry of Communications and he who sits at its head ([Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,] with a private newspaper at his disposal) has no intention of promoting critical content. Any attempt by this ministry to silence and intimidate critical broadcasters will most likely be considered a worthy achievement and highly appreciated by the boss.

Ehud Shem-Tov

Ehud Shem-Tov is the founder of Israel Social TV