Rivlin at conference
Rivlin at conference Mark Neiman, GPO

President Rivlin today, Thursday, opened the Haaretz Israel Democracy Conference.

The president began his remarks by saying “one hundred years of independent Hebrew journalism should not be taken for granted. One hundred years of giving a platform to crucial and civil discussion and debate is hugely important.”

Haaretz succeeds in annoying and irritating us all from time to time, for more or less a century,” said the president. “I have been reading Haaretz for 70 years so I know what I don’t agree with, and when they write good things about me in Haaretz, I am really worried and have a good look at what I have done. And yet, I think that it is one of the most important newspapers for the existence of Israeli democracy.”

“It has always been committed to giving space to opposing and contradictory voices in its editorials. It has committed to the principle that democracy is not only majority rule. It is committed to the principle of giving a voice to the voiceless. Sometimes it is irritating, sometimes absolutely infuriating, and on the contrary, I sometimes ask myself – perhaps they are right? In any case, I wish us all that we continue to be irritated by this important publication for the next hundred years,” he continued.

President Rivlin added, “Journalism and newspapers are supposed to be the oxygen and the disinfectant of democracy. A place where all views are heard, but also a place where facts are established. I know that public trust in the ‘media’, in journalism and journalists, is at a low. I also know that more and more newspapers see their role as combatants in the political sphere. But it is important to remember, particularly now, that the survival of the traditional press is vital for democracy. In the age of social media, the age of fake news, when everybody can be a self-appointed journalist, journalistic standards are critically important: to filter, to check, to search for the truth. Only if the traditional press maintains these standards, which have been neglected, of fairness, accuracy, proportionality, allowing the right of response and the right of everyone to their reputation – only then can it fight for its place and ensure its survival in the long run. A place where everything is published, without distinction between truth and lies, between reality and fantasy, between news and promoted content, is a place without free press. And a place without free press is not democracy.”

“Right now, those standing for election to the Knesset are under examination, but the free press itself is also under the spotlight – its standards, its sifting of important and trivial, its ability to ensure that we citizens are as well-informed about the positions of the candidates and those who seek to lead us,” he continued.

“My dear friends, it is not easy to be a president who is invited to speak at conferences during election season. Rather than continue to choose my words carefully, let me return to the previous century and speak about Salman Schocken.”

The president spoke about Salman Schocken: “Salman was a man of vision and of deed. He saw the vital need to develop and strengthen the Jewish spiritual and cultural foundations of the Zionist endeavor. Allow me to also think out loud, for a moment. Although Salman ‘only’ bought the paper as a wedding present for his son, I think in honor of Haaretz’s centenary, it would be right to revive the paper's Judaism supplement – in his name. Today, Haaretz flies the flag of democracy, but perhaps a comprehensive supplement would give voice to a wider discussion on Zionist ideology that believes in the right and the duty of the Jewish people to create a democratic framework for the state in the Land of Israel.”

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