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Is Israel really a safe haven for journalists?

August 11, 2017 at 6:13 pm

Iranian journalist and blogger Neda Amin, 32, who fled her country to Turkey in 2014 over a series of articles critical of the government, arrived “safely in Israel” yesterday morning according to Times of Israel. Amin lived with a refugee status in Turkey until 5 July when Ankara told her that she had 30 days to leave the country.

Amin regularly wrote a Persian blog for the Times of Israel and so she contacted the website’s Editor David Horovitz who exerted his efforts with the related Israeli departments and facilitated travel to Israel. “As soon as we brought Neda’s case to the attention of the Israeli authorities, everybody was helpful and professional,” Horovitz said.

Upon her arrival at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airpor, she hailed the atmosphere of freedom in Israel. She said: “I am proud to live in a country that responded so instinctively to help somebody who was in danger.”

Read: Israel is squeezing press freedoms, like Arab dictators do

Times of Israel blogger Neda Amin who has faced forced deportation from Iran arrived in Israel on 10 August 2017.

Israeli Interior Minister Arie Deri, who issued the visa for the Iranian journalist’s entry into Israel, welcomed her to the hub of freedom. He tweeted on Thursday: “Welcome to Israel!”

But it seems that Deri, who hailed the safety and freedom granted to the Iranian journalist who paid a price for free speech, did not hear about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s criticism of the Israeli media, accusing it of being used as a tool by the left-wing to bring him and his party down.

We know that the left and the media — and we know that it’s the same thing — is on an obsessive witch hunt against me and my family with the goal of achieving a coup against the government

he said, stressing to his supporters that the “police and the media work full-time to set the agenda, and woe to anyone who veers away from it.”

The Israeli government, which granted asylum for the Iranian journalist, practices the worst crackdown on free speech in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Israeli occupation government arrested and indicted hundreds of the Palestinians just for posting a single word or phrase on social media platforms. Between January and September 2016, Israel charged 145 Palestinians for posts they made on Facebook.

Several reports monitored the Israeli occupation deliberately targeting journalists – beating them, arresting them and indicting them. The reports also counted Palestinian journalists being shot dead or wounded by the Israeli occupation. In a report issued in June, Human Rights Watch counted at least five major Israeli violations of international humanitarian law regarding Palestinians, including the Israeli violations against Palestinian journalists.

Read more: Why does Israel believe the world would be better without Al Jazeera?

Freedom of speech is deliberately targeted in Israel in particular after the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved in the beginning of July a bill giving the police power to block websites under claims they publish “criminal” or “offensive” content. The leading Israeli newspaper Haaretz warned that the law lacked “transparency” as it allows the government to close a website using secret evidence.

The latest, but not the last of the Israeli violations against freedom of expression and free speech is the order of the Israeli Communications Minister Ayoub Kara to revoke press credentials of Al Jazeera’s journalists in Israel and to order cable and satellite providers to shut off its broadcasts.

It is easy for the Israeli official to invent a false pretext for any of his dishonest actions. Despite the wide spread respect and the international fame which Al Jazeera enjoys, Kara claimed that it does not serve free speech. “We have identified media outlets that do not serve freedom of speech, but endanger the security of Israel’s citizens, and the main instrument has been Al Jazeera,” he told a news conference.

It is not the first time Israel has targeted Al Jazeera, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said Al Jazeera “is a propaganda outfit in the style of the Soviets or Nazi Germany”.

All this because Al Jazeera discloses the occupation’s crimes against Palestinians and doesn’t allow them to pass quietly.

By receiving the Iranian blogger and giving her an opportunity to apply for asylum, Israel is not proving that it is a hub for free speech, no matter how hard it tries to masquerade the events as being so. Tel Aviv welcomed Amin because she is critical of a regime which Israel condemns and it wanted to send a message to those who criticise and are hostile to Iran that they have a safe haven in Israel.

This is nothing to do with free speech and expression.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.