Despite Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s ongoing feud with the local media over coverage of him, Israel moved up ten places in the world rankings of press freedom published on Wednesday, The Times of Israel reported.
Reporters Without Borders ranked Israel 91 out of 180 countries in its annual survey, but Mr. Netanyahu was criticized for treating journalists like “enemies.”
“Although Israel is often described as ‘the Middle East’s only democracy’ and has risen a few places in the 2017 Index, Netanyahu has tried in recent months to tame the Israel Broadcasting Authority because he thinks its programming is out of control. He is said to be ‘obsessed with the media and journalists, regarding them as his enemies,’” the report said.
The report also found fault with the Israeli military, citing its censorship power and alleging frequent “violation of the rights of Palestinian journalists and journalists of other nations, especially when they are covering demonstrations.”
The survey found more press freedom than in Israel in 90 countries, including Haiti, Botswana, Namibia and Papua New Guinea.
But the methodology, which incorporates a large quantity of subjective data, is open to question.
While Reporters Without Borders bases the rankings in part on “quantitative data on abuses and acts of violence against journalists,” it combines that with an online questionnaire filled out by journalists, lawyers and sociologists in the countries being evaluated. Their judgments on such issues as “pluralism, media independence, legislative framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information,” are their own, and largely subjective.
In Israel, for example, the journalists who are rating local press freedom are many of those same people who are daily at odds with the prime minister in their coverage of him and his government, which he charges is rife with bias.
It was also not clear from the organization’s description of its methodology whether it takes into consideration such factors as terrorism, which places an unusual burden on a government which must constantly weigh press freedom against vital security concerns. By the same token, countries like Norway and Finland, which rated first and third in the survey, face no comparable challenges.