Israel has a freer media than its neighbors, and 80% of citizens read the newspaper, yet Bergman says that true freedom of the press is not yet a government priority.
Question: How impactful is the media in the Middle East? Ronen Bergman: I would differentiate Israel than other places. In Syria, Egypt and other places, the press is under control of the government and therefore not free, and therefore its ability to be aggressive and critical with the government is very, very limited.
In Israel, I work for the largest Israeli daily. During Friday, our Sunday, we have something like 80% of the readership, a million copies, which is, for a country of 7 million people, it’s quite a lot. Basically, everybody reads this paper. So, it’s quite effective in the sense that once you publish a big scoop, a big revelation, everybody knows about it. Everybody reads. Everybody saw at least the follow ups in the electronic media, and it has major effect.
Though in some of the cases, because Israel is yet a very young country where its executive branch still don’t understand the real meaning of freedom of information, the real meaning of obeying the law, having obeying the chain of command and the hierarchy and basically understanding that the executive branch, the government offices and services and agencies, serve the public and not the other way around.
Some of the revelation that they published about corruption in the government served me as a lesson to be [found] modest with my abilities and power and impact, because it was published. Everybody knows that something horrendous is going on in Mossad or the government health office, or somewhere else, but nothing changed. Because if someone like this would have been published in the United States, the person involved next day would be either fired or resigning and would be ashamed to show his face in the street.
In Israel, functioning in the state of war and still not grasping the real meaning of a democracy in that sense and obeying the law, still accept the fact that corrupted people are part of the government and in a sense diminished the power or the effect of the press.Recorded: Sep 19, 2008