Spent the weekend in Washington, DC and visited The Newseum – which as the President of 5WPR, my PR agency, I found thoroughly informative and enjoyable. As an observer and participant in the media business, it was a must-see. But as an Israel supporter was thoroughly disappointed with the museum, which is dedicated to the news business.
A half-floor section of the building is dedicated to press freedom – and there are three Middle East nations on display who are described as not allowing press freedom – Libya, Syria and Israel. Two countries where there is no freedom – and the majority of media is state-controlled, reporters are regularly imprisoned, being highlighted alongside the single democracy in the Middle East which cherishes press freedom. Prominently displayed – and awful for Brand Israel to be portrayed alongside those of dictatorships.
The display tells us, Israel’s media is only “partly free.” In the city where the President and State Department are spying on reporters from Associated Press and Fox News, visitors are told a journalist was indicted for possessing stolen confidential documents in Israel. And it’s true – but is there anywhere in the world someone would not be indicted for possessing and using stolen confidential documents? Is American media completely free if Israel isn’t?
Next, the museum details the success of Israel Hayom. Is not the creation of a free new newspaper which challenged the long-standing status-quo precisely and exactly the definition of a free press? Anyone who thinks the press of Israel isn’t free should actually read the newspapers. Undoubtedly, the Israeli press is amongst the most vicious in the world – and am sure PM Netanyahu, and any of his predecessors wish they could have controlled the media better.
Israel remains a vibrant democracy with a free press. Even this very website is something which wouldn’t exist in any of the countries bordering Israel. I’d suggest The Newseum examine the other nations in the Middle East a little closer. Of course, even in Washington, D.C. where the museum is located one can ask if the media enjoys freedom quite as they do in Israel.