Israel’s press regains free designation from D.C. think tank

(JTA) — Israel was the only country in the Middle East with a press designated as free by a Washington think tank.

The designation by the Freedom House in its annual report upgraded Israel from not free last year and put the Jewish state in the 14 percent of countries and territories throughout the world considered to have a free press.

Israel regained its status after there were “no serious legal charges and fewer reported cases of physical attacks or harassment against journalists during 2013,” the report said.

The report listed several “challenges” to media freedom in Israel, including “military censorship and the use of gag orders to restrict coverage, curbs on journalists’ freedom of movement, political interference at the public broadcaster, and the impact on sustainability in the print sector by the free paper Israel Hayom, which is openly aligned with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Looking at the West Bank and Gaza Strip together, the report designated it as not free while adding that there were “fewer incidents of violence by either Israeli or Palestinian forces.”

Belarus, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan were the lowest-rated countries.

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