Charges and Counter-charges Fly As Rabin and Journalists Meet

Premier Yitzhak Rabin and Israel’s journalistic establishment clashed angrily at a meeting of the Israeli Press Council here. The Premier accused the press of being unfair, unbalanced and alarmist in its presentation of the news and accused it of publishing stories without checking the facts. The journalists retorted that the government suppressed information or gave misinformation. The only agreement to emerge from the meeting was that the debate begun Friday will be continued.

Rabin claimed that if Israel had libel laws as tough as those in Canada, newspapers here would forever be paying damages. He differentiated between freedom of the press and what he said was the responsibility of the press to check facts. He cited examples of what he considered the Israeli press’ carelessness with facts. He said that during his five years as Ambassador to Washington, American journalists invariably checked with his office and solicited his viewpoint before printing stories related to Israel. “Be hostile, but be accurate.” Rabin declared.

Journalists responded to Rabin’s remarks by accusing the government of failure to provide facts or providing erroneous facts. They noted that the Rabin Administration has abolished the weekly press briefings. “At least give us the right to ask questions even if you retain the right to refuse to answer.” one journalist told Rabin.

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