Israel and the United States, currently competing to see who can bring more democracy to the Middle East, have achieved notable triumphs in the area of press freedom. Israel, for example, shoots and kills journalists (like the UK’s James Miller and over a dozen Arab journalists who die even more invisibly than people like Miller) and international observers (like the UN’s Ian Hook) and activists (like the US’s Rachel Corrie). Israel bombs radio stations — it did so as part of its latest attack on Rafah, for example. You can get a good idea for what Israel thinks of freedom of the press for Palestinians from this quote by an Israeli official, that comes via al-Jazeera: “We are under no obligation to help Palestinian journalists enter Israel. We don’t differentiate between ordinary Palestinians and Palestinians who claim to be journalists.”
Not to be outdone, the United States has a proclivity for bombing al-Jazeera journalists — it bombed the Kabul station while bombing Afghanistan, it conducted a missile attack on Tariq Ayoub, and it shelled the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, killing numerous journalists.
Well, Israel is keeping up! Readers may remember the case of Mordechai Vanunu, the technician who leaked Israel’s nuclear weapons program and spent 18 years in prison for his act. His arrest itself was abhorrent, his imprisonment despicable, and conditions were placed on him after his release that he couldn’t leave Israel, couldn’t talk to journalists, etc. After Vanunu’s release, he was forced to hide in a church after Israeli newspapers leaked his address. A journalist from the Sunday Times, Peter Hounam of the UK, spent some time with Vanunu at the church. As a result, Hounam was arrested and is now being kept incommunicado by the Israelis.