The army’s spokesperson unit on Tuesday announced that it was introducing new criteria to determine who qualifies as a military correspondent, following repeated complaints from The Times of Israel of discrimination in the distribution of information.
Military correspondents recognized as such by the Israel Defense Forces receive preferred treatment from the spokesperson’s unit, including regular briefings from senior officers, information about breaking news before other journalists, and other benefits.
Last year, The Times of Israel filed a petition with the High Court of Justice in order to have its military correspondent, Judah Ari Gross, recognized by the IDF. The army said that the petition served, in part, as the impetus for its decision to form an external advisory committee last September.
That committee 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.
In May, the committee, which was led by a retired Supreme Court justice and experts in the field of communications and journalism, released a report that outlined these problems and recommended how the military could address them.
The committee 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 qualifies as a military correspondent.
On Tuesday, IDF Spokesperson Ronen Manelis, who is due to leave his position later this month, announced that he was largely accepting the committee’s recommendations.
In a statement, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said it would be forming a new group of officially recognized military correspondents with approximately 25 members.
According to the IDF, these would be made up of representatives from the country’s leading 25 news outlets, decided 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.