Benjamin Netanyahu’s Spokesman, on Press Freedom in Israel
AUG. 1, 2016
To the Editor:
Ruth Margalit’s argument that Israel’s prime minister is taking control of the press (“How Netanyahu Is Crushing Israel’s Free Press,” Sunday Review, July 31) is absurd. Anyone who spends a day in Israel knows that the Israeli press does not pull any punches when it comes to the prime minister, and this is not about to change.
Ms. Margalit’s attack obscures the real story: A longstanding media monopoly in Israel with one-sided views seeks to shut out alternative voices by stifling market competition that would give choices to viewers and readers.
The introduction of the newspaper Israel Today broke this enduring monopoly in the print media and gave Israelis the same choice that readers have in other democracies.
Broadcast journalism reform in Israel remains well behind print. Israel has just two main television channels — and both espouse similar editorial views. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to introduce to the broadcast market the same reform that he introduced into other sectors of Israel’s economy with spectacular results: competition, the very opposite of control.
The opening of the media market is one of the healthiest things for Israeli democracy. Israelis should be able to vote with their remotes — just as Americans do.
The writer is a spokesman for Mr. Netanyahu.
Another letter in the NYTimes:
Israel and Free Press Debated^
AUG. 8, 2016
To the Editor:
Ruth Margalit’s Israel where the media is being “crushed” is simply one I don’t recognize (“Netanyahu crushed Israel’s free press,” Opinion, Aug. 1).
The day after her piece appeared, the left-wing daily Haaretz published a column by Gideon Levy entitled “Stop Living in Denial, Israel Is an Evil State.” Far from fearing a knock at the door in the middle of the night, Levy is one of the paper’s star columnists, and is translated into English for a global audience.
Margalit also dramatically overstates what she calls “the outsize influence” of the free newspaper Israel Hayom, owned by Sheldon Adelson. Circulation figures show that the paper has a 40 percent market share, but it’s very closely followed by Yediot Ahronot at 35 percent, which she admits has taken a “decidedly anti-Netanyahu line.” Left also unmentioned are the numerous other newspapers, radio stations and news websites, in Hebrew, Arabic and English, offering a multiplicity of views in Israel’s hotly contested public space.
Finally, Margalit undermines her own argument by quoting the popular host of a “60 Minutes”-style investigative program, who says that despite any pressure or attacks from the government: “Israeli media remains very critical, very aggressive ... It’s a kind of basic instinct that’s part of our DNA.”
That’s the true picture of Israel’s press.