Avi Weinberg
Ynetnews (Opinion)
March 20, 2008 - 6:25pm


Several journalists in Israel immediately stood up to defend the Arab network and condemn the boycott, and this condemnation is indeed justified, because it is improper for a government to limit journalists even if their reports are not to the liking of some cabinet members. Yet al-Jazeera does not need this protection: It can easily continue to report even without Israel’s official spokespersons appears on its shows. In order to document what’s happening on the ground there is no need to interview tie-wearing officials who utter sophisticated messages.

This principle is true for all areas dealt with by television networks and the press. In fact, it is too bad that we don’t see many more boycotts in Israel by official bodies unpleased with media outlets and journalists – because a boycott on a journalist is in fact a citation. It means that the journalist is fulfilling its journalistic mission as the public’s representative, rather than serving as the representative of the government ministry or corporation is reports on. Journalism is, by its very nature, an opposition to the government. This is its role in a democratic regime and it should be critical and biting in its attitude towards the government, towards powerful economic bodies, and towards the legal system.

Good journalists are boycotted

Here is a rule of thumb that is almost always applicable: A journalist subjected to a boycott is a good journalist. There are several journalists in Israel who I respect and appreciate, and all of them were boycotted at least once by the subjects of their coverage.

Usually, the boycotted journalists respond with a smile and continue to offer revealing coverage instead of flattery, among other reasons in order to prove that they can present information about the body in question even without the cooperation of official spokespersons. The information provided by spokespersons is only the flattering kind, which extols and praises the minister or director general in question while hiding the failures and corruption.


One day a State wakes up in the morning and decides to boycott a network. It happened to us in the past with BBC, when its programming content and criticism of Israel were not to the liking of those in charge of our public relations effort. Now, the Foreign Ministry wishes to do the same with al-Jazeera.

The reason for this is the network’s reporting on the mass killing of Palestinians, including children and babies, by the IDF several weeks ago. The network, Israeli officials say, adopts a pro-Palestinian and pro-Hamas stance to the point of its broadcasts turning into propaganda, including repeated clips that feature close-ups of dead children. Meanwhile, the network barely reports about the suffering experienced in Israeli towns like Sderot and Ashkelon.

In order to expose the issues that truly deserve to be revealed to the public, journalists must work very hard, dig deep into the organization, and confront its leaders. Not everyone is cut out for this job, and therefore a significant part of the information we receive from media outlets in the form of “news” is no more than messages written by spokespersons and public relations experts on behalf of their clients.

The problem, therefore, is not al-Jazeera. The problem lies with the media outlets and journalists that are not boycotted on occasion. Perhaps this means they are not critical or biting enough. Therefore, here is yet another rule of thumb for the benefit of news consumers: Be careful of journalists who are loved by the government.


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