Richard Silverstein On Israel’s Gag Orders And ‘The Middle East’s Only Democracy’

Tikun Olam’s Richard Silverstein
The article was originally published at MintPressNews.com.
By Sean Nevins

WASHINGTON — Though it describes itself as “the only democracy in the Middle East,” the Israeli government and military regularly impose gag orders to stop domestic media from reporting on sensitive information, including the detention of Israeli citizens by Hamas in Gaza, meetings between the Israeli Defense Forces and al-Qaida fighters, and the arrest of Israeli whistleblowers.

“Israel calls itself a democracy, but it really isn’t,” Richard Silverstein, a Seattle-based journalist, told MintPress News.

In addition to being a frequent contributor to MintPress, Silverstein is also the author of Tikun Olam, a progressive Jewish blog that frequently breaks stories Israeli domestic media are prevented from covering due to gag orders.

And he isn’t the only one arguing that Israel, which controls the fate of 4.5 million Palestinians who cannot vote, isn’t a democracy: Last year, The Economist named Tunisia as the only democracy in the Middle East.

Silverstein says the Israeli government targets free speech and freedom of the press with censorship and gag orders, subverting the democratic drive.

Censorship is imposed by the military, which has a mandate to protect state security, Silverstein said, noting: “Security, as the government defines it, trumps everything.”

Censorship is likely to come into play when a journalist reports on sensitive topics — a new weapons technology like a drone, for example.

Gag orders are a broader form of censorship implemented in criminal and intelligence matters. For example, if a person is accused of rape, and the victim wants the story to be known, the lawyer representing the accused can go to a judge and argue that publication of the incident could harm his client. In this case, the judge might issue a gag order to stop any reporting on the case.

But gag orders are also used in intelligence matters, explained Silverstein, and anything that could cause political embarrassment or damage is broadly interpreted to be a threat to the government. (more…)

Bill Moyers: The Challenge of Journalism Is to Survive in the Pressure Cooker of Plutocracy

By Bill Moyers

This post first appeared on BillMoyers.com.

The following remarks were made by Bill Moyers at the presentation of the Helen Bernstein Book Awards for Excellence in Journalism. The ceremony took place at the New York Public Library on May 26, 2015.


Thank you for allowing me to share this evening with you. I’m delighted to meet these exceptional journalists whose achievements you honor with the Helen Bernstein Book Award.

But I gulped when [New York Public Library President] Tony Marx asked me to talk about the challenges facing journalism today and gave me 10 to 15 minutes to do so. I seriously thought of taking a powder. Those challenges to journalism are so well identified, so mournfully lamented, and so passionately debated that I wonder if the subject isn’t exhausted. Or if we aren’t exhausted from hearing about it. I wouldn’t presume to speak for journalism or for other journalists or for any journalist except myself. Ted Gup, who teaches journalism at Emerson and Boston College, once bemoaned the tendency to lump all of us under the term “media.” As if everyone with a pen, a microphone, a camera (today, a laptop or smartphone) – or just a loud voice – were all one and the same. I consider myself a journalist. But so does James O’Keefe. Matt Drudge is not E.J. Dionne. The National Review is not The Guardian, or Reuters TheHuffington Post. Ann Coulter doesn’t speak for Katrina vanden Heuvel, or Rush Limbaugh for Ira Glass. Yet we are all “media” and as Ted Gup says, “the media” speaks for us all.

So I was just about to email Tony to say, “Sorry, you don’t want someone from the Jurassic era to talk about what’s happening to journalism in the digital era,” when I remembered one of my favorite stories about the late humorist Robert Benchley. He arrived for his final exam in international law at Harvard to find that the test consisted of one instruction: “Discuss the international fisheries problem in respect to hatcheries protocol and dragnet and procedure as it affects (a) the point of view of the United States and (b) the point of view of Great Britain.” Benchley was desperate but he was also honest, and he wrote: “I know nothing about the point of view of Great Britain in the arbitration of the international fisheries problem, and nothing about the point of view of the United States. I shall therefore discuss the question from the point of view of the fish.”

So shall I, briefly. One small fish in the vast ocean of media.

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