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ABOUT I'LAM
I'LAM is an NGO that aims to develop and empower the Arab media and to give voice to Palestinian issues. This unique center contributes to the development of a plural and unbiased media landscape, which is fundamental for every democracy. I'LAM was established to serve primarily the Palestinian citizens in Israel through the improvement of their mass media system with training, documentation, advocacy, cooperation, and outreach.

Media Landscape in Israel | Relationship Between the Israeli Media and the Palestinian Citizens of Israel |Local Arab Media | I'LAM Was Born | Goals


Media Landscape in Israel

The Israeli media is the most powerful ideological, political, and cultural tool for shaping public opinion in the country. This powerful tool is primarily controlled by the national government and constitutes an important mechanism of control and manipulation. The antidemocratic features and role of the media system in Israel have their origin in governmental policies, legislative regulations, and in the self-censorship by Israeli media workers.

Most of the laws and regulations dealing with media were adopted from the British Mandate (1917-1930’s), with little adjustments. These laws and regulations give wide power to the Ministry of Interior (to give licenses and to close newspapers), and the military forces (in matters of censorship). In addition, media authorities are appointed by the government, where political parties are given representation in the media system according to their political power. Israel – unlike all western countries – has no explicit laws defending freedom of speech, freedom of the press, or freedom of communication, provides no special protections to the media or journalists. The most popular and important sources of information for journalists in Israel are governmental.

A special arrangement called the Editors Committee is a mediator body between the government and the Hebrew media and is composed by editors of all Jewish newspapers. This committee has the bizarre role of self-censorship while giving up the right of the public to obtain objective information. This body submitted to the government demands to censor the media in matters of foreign affairs, security, military actions, Jewish immigration, and even economic and water policies.

The role of the media in Israel, according to the Israeli Broadcasting Law is to represent the Jewish society, to reinforce the Jewish culture, and to establish a bond between Jews living in Israel and those living in the Diaspora. These laws blatantly ignore Palestinian citizens of Israel, their culture and identity, and neglect essential commitments and role of the media as promoter of democracy, civil society, and pluralism. Finally, many of the journalists who do cover Arab issues are closely related to the military and the secret service, and thus are unlikely to provide unbiased coverage. The unwillingness of the Israeli media landscape to present a plural and diverse picture and to nurture debates between different groups in the society is a significant flaw of the media system in Israel.

Relationship Between the Israeli Media and the Palestinian Citizens of Israel

Within this political context and atmosphere, Israeli media embodies “the voice of the Jews” while excluding “the voice of the Arab citizens of Israel.” The Arab Palestinian society in Israel is buffeted with prejudiced coverage, and Palestinian journalists can only work at the margins of the mainstream media. The following statistics further illustrate the relationship between the Israeli media and the Palestinian minority in Israel:

  • Recently, Israeli media authorities have taken out all Arabic programs (2% of the total broadcasting time, while the Arab population in Israel constitutes 19%) from the public “Channel One.” These programs were rescheduled in a new Arabic satellite-channel, a propaganda tool aimed at the Arab world outside Israel.
  • Only two percent of all journalistic reports in Israeli newspapers deal with issues related to the Arab minority in Israel.
  • 80-90% from the newspaper reports about the Palestinian citizens in Israel are negative.
  • The coverage that does occur of Palestinians citizens usually portrays them as a threat to the “security” of the State, and ignores social, cultural, and daily events related to this community.
  • The terminology used by the media to speak about Arabs and Jews in similar situations is fundamentally different. For example, during October 2000 Jews were being referred as “citizens” or “demonstrators” while Arabs were only “residents” or “agitators.”
  • Since October 2000, the Israeli media followed a request made by official representatives to refrain from interviewing some of the Palestinian leaders, even if they are Knesset members.
  • Almost no Arabs work in the Israeli media. Those actually employed work under the constant menace of being fired if they question or criticize internal policies of the state or of the media. Local Arab Media

    In contrast with the established Hebrew media landscape that includes two Israeli official TV channels, a cable system with 4 local TV channels, an educational channel, 4 official radio channels, and a wide network of local and regional newspapers and radio channels, the Palestinian media scene inside Israel is dismal. Palestinian citizens inside Israel have only a radio channel, but no independent cable channel. Only recently and as a reaction to I’LAM’s work, the government published a public tender for its beginning. As far as the written media is concerned, there is only one Arab daily newspaper and four weekly newspapers published in Israel. Within this context, Arab Palestinian media in Israel faces six main challenges:

    LACK OF RESOURCES: Since the establishment of the State, the Arab Palestinian community has been excluded from access to the mainstream government funding or matching funds for local media, filmmakers, film festivals, and media alternatives. Local Arab Palestinian media lacks the basic financial means and technological and personnel infrastructure.

    LACK OF INFORMATION SOURCES: Arab Palestinian local media has limited access to information sources.

    CENSORSHIP AND DISCRIMINATORY GOVERNMENTAL POLICIES: The media scene in Israel faces significant censorship constraints. Especially Arab journalists are the target of severe restrictions on their freedom of speech.

    LOW LEVELS OF PROFESSIONALISM: Arab Palestinian journalists in its majority did not finish a University career. In fact, only a very low percentage of graduated students form mass media and journalism is of Palestinian origin. During their media education, Arab Palestinian students have few opportunities to acquire practical experience and skills in journalism, mainly in TV production. Once graduated, Palestinians also have few opportunities to take key positions within the media business.

    CONFLICTING INTERNAL POLICIES : Like any community, the Arab Palestinian media suffers from internal controversies and conflicting interests. However, this problematic situation is exacerbated by fear, intimidation, and a lack of knowledge about their rights.

    I'LAM Was Born

    In 2000, a group of Palestinian journalists, and academics founded I'LAM, the Media Center for Palestinians in Israel, to address the communicational needs of Arab Palestinians in Israel and to improve the media landscape in Israel. The tragic events of October 2000, known as ”Black October”, shaped the early work of the organization, as it sought to document the massive violence used against Palestinian demonstrators. I’LAM was on the scene of events, filming as they unfolded, and sending the images to various media agencies in Israel and abroad. I’LAM also worked to inform local students and over three thousand people in special lectures organized by I’LAM to discuss the role of the media during the October events.

    During 2001 and 2002, I'LAM made the transition into a more professional organization. In additional to providing vital coverage of current events, I'LAM now implements proactive projects to advance its goals. Recent projects include video documentaries, high school awareness-raising sessions, and public policy roundtables for the local media community.

    Today I’LAM is a well-established NGO, unique in its focus on empowering the Palestinian Israeli media and helping to strengthen civil society. I'LAM has cultivated strong and productive relations with a range of institutions, foundations, NGO’s, media agencies, and other important actors both nationally and internationally. With its commitment to media democracy in Israel, expertise, professionalism and high level of staff motivation, I’LAM is working daily to invigorate civil society in Israel, and make it more inclusive and balanced towards its Palestinian citizens.

    Goals

    Through our work we aim to shape Israeli media policy to support impartiality, fairness, and equity and to influence Israeli media institutions to adopt more professional and unbiased standards in their coverage of Palestinian citizens of Israel. The empowerment of the Palestinian media landscape and society by promoting open access to the Israeli media, encouraging a fair information-flow, and fostering professional standards in the Palestinian media is an core aspect of our work. In addition we seek to strengthen the commitment of Palestinian media institutions towards the Palestinian society addressing their real media needs. With its work, I’LAM certainly plays a key role in promoting democracy and human rights.

    Achievements

    Media Landscape in Israel | Relationship Between the Israeli Media and the Palestinian Citizens of Israel |Local Arab Media | I'LAM Was Born | Goals