However, openness has limits, and Israel always had state censorship laws blocking national security related information from being publicly aired. Pre-1948 under British Mandate law, all publications needed military censor clearance to print. Thereafter under an IDF-press agreement, censorship applied only to security-related issues.
In 1989, Israel's High Court imposed limits by restricting censorship to circumstances under which "there is near certainty of actual harm to security (and no) other alternative means (exists) to prevent the risk without avoiding damaging freedom of expression," according to Justice Aharon Barak. He also wrote that "it is appropriate to open the door to an open exchange of views on security matters (so the press can) be free to serve as a forum for the exchange of views and criticism regarding essential issues for society in general and for the individual."
Israel often falls short, especially in times of conflict, and egregiously during Operation Cast Lead and its aftermath. So flagrantly that it got the pro-Zionist, pro-corporate, pro-imperial Freedom House initially to drop the country from Free to Partly Free status in its 2009 global rankings, stating:
"Restrictions on journalists and official attempts to influence coverage during the Gaza conflict led to Israel's Partly Free status."
Afterwards, it quietly and dishonestly reversed it to Free, apparently thinking no one would notice, but they did in reports by Agence France Presse, Foreign Policy magazine, the Jerusalem Post and elsewhere.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also dropped Israel to 93rd out of 175 countries in its 2009 international press freedom index behind Kuwait, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. On November 9, 2009, Haaretz duly noticed by headlining, "Israel ranks low for freedom of press, after Gaza media ban" in reporting RSF's 47 spot downgrade from the previous year.
Israeli Media Coverage of Operation Cast Lead
As a conduit for government propaganda, Israeli media glorified the conflict, dehumanized Palestinians, downplayed their suffering, ignored the overwhelming carnage and devastation, and the IDF's crimes of war and against humanity. At the same time, they highlighted the few Israeli casualties and portrayed Arab Israelis as a fifth column security threat over their opposition to the war.