After lengthy battle, IDF admits ToI reporter to military correspondents’ group
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After lengthy battle, IDF admits ToI reporter to military correspondents’ group

IDF Spokesperson sets clear criteria for defense reporters following Times of Israel petition to High Court of Justice over preferential treatment given to other news outlets

Incoming IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman speaks at a ceremony in which he took over for outgoing spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis on September 15, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
Incoming IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman speaks at a ceremony in which he took over for outgoing spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis on September 15, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

The army’s spokesperson unit accepted The Times of Israel’s defense reporter into its group of recognized military correspondents on Sunday, following a protracted legal battle in light of complaints by The Times of Israel over discrimination in the distribution of information.

Military correspondents recognized by the Israel Defense Forces receive preferential treatment from the spokesperson’s unit, including regular briefings from senior officers, information about breaking news before other journalists, and other benefits.

Two years ago, having for years been refused entry into this preferred group of military correspondents, The Times of Israel and its attorney Oshri Dahan filed a petition with the High Court of Justice in order to have military correspondent Judah Ari Gross recognized by the IDF. Due to this complaint, the military formed an external advisory committee last September to examine the entire issue of preferential treatment for military correspondents, as well as the process by which they are recognized.

That committee, led by retired Supreme Court justice Ayala Procaccia, found that the existing model of determining who qualified as a military correspondent — in which an external, self-governed organization, known as the Military Correspondents Group, made the decision based on no clear criteria or requirements — was deeply problematic and unfair, according to its report released in May.

The committee, composed of Procaccia and experts in the field of communications and journalism, said that the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit was justified in having a select group of military correspondents who would receive preferential treatment, but that the decision of who is considered a military correspondent should be based on clear guidelines, not the whims of an external body. Though established criteria were important, the report said that the IDF spokesperson should also have a degree of flexibility in deciding who qualified as a military correspondent.

In September, then-IDF spokesperson Ronen Manelis announced that he was largely accepting the committee’s recommendations. And on Monday, current IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman informed The Times of Israel that Gross had been accepted into this select group. It was not immediately clear which other outlets had been approved.

According to the IDF, the military correspondents’ group would be made up of representatives from the country’s 25 leading news outlets, as determined by the number of certified reporters working for the outlet, the size of its readership, its social media following or its “influence” as estimated by the Israeli communications firm Yifat.

“At the same time, it should be clarified that all reporters and media outlets with Government Press Office certificates will continue to receive responses as normal from the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit,” the army said in September.

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