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News You Can't Use: Embargoes and Exclusives

The Israel Democracy Institute 4 Pinsker Street, Jerusalem

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Imposing a "news embargo" prohibiting the disclosure of information that has been given to journalists until a predetermined time while granting an "exclusive" to a specific media outlet is a well-known journalistic practice. Yet there are a variety of aspects of this practice that have not been discussed fully. Last year, the Ethics Court of the Israel Press Association held two sessions that revealed that there are deep differences of opinion regarding the ethics of imposing and breaking news embargoes. It therefore seems that there is a real need to examine the limits of news embargoes and exclusivity agreements from a legal, ethical, and practical perspective.

To this end, IDI and "Hatzlaha"– The Consumers' Movement for the Promotion of a Fair Society and Economy are joining together to host a roundtable on news embargoes and exclusivity agreements in Israel, which will explore issues related to competition, journalistic ethics, and freedom of information in Israel.

The roundtable will explore the following questions:

  1. What are the main mechanisms that government authorities use when they want to block information and embargo its publication? Why is this done and what justifies it? Is this practice more common in some authorities than in others? If so, why? Is there a difference between an embargo that is mandated by law and an embargo that is imposed simply as a common practice?
  2. What kind of exclusivity agreements are there in the Israeli telecommunications market today? What is the motivation behind such agreements? What dangers do they pose? Is there a difference between exclusivity granted by a governmental body and exclusivity that is granted by a private individual or institution? What other mechanisms accompany exclusivity that could potentially damage the final journalistic product?
  3. Is there a difference between public information and private-commercial information? What practices are used when imposing an embargo on governmental information?
  4. Is there a difference between the way that news embargoes are seen in Israel and in other Western countries?
  5. Should legislation be introduced to regulate news embargoes? Are such embargoes covered by existing legislation? How should the relationship between a journalist and his or her source be defined in cases in which embargoes are broken (violation of law, breach of ethics, breach of contract, etc.)? What happens when there are claims of breach of the duty of loyalty (towards media consumers as well)?
  6. Does the changing nature of the press market in the digital age have an impact on news embargoes and exclusivity agreements? To what extent can Israel's Freedom of Information Law and the values of open government be seen as counterweights to the practice of embargoes and exclusivity?

The discussion will be moderated by Dr. Ido Baum, legal commentator for TheMarker and a senior lecturer at the School of Law of the College of Management.

This Hebrew event will be broadcast live on this site and will be available on YouTube thereafter.