The Israel Press Council is a voluntary body established jointly by the journalists, newspaper editors, publishers and public representatives with a twofold aim:
- To safeguard freedom of the press and the public's right to know.
- To define the rules of journalistic ethics for those who deal in communication and to supervise the implementation of those rules.
The Council has an Ethics Tribunal the purpose of which is to hear complaints regarding a breach of ethics by the journalists and or by the media. The Israel Press Council was formed in 1963. It includes public representatives (40%), journalists (30%) and newspaper editors and publishers (30%). It consists of:
- The Plenum — the legislative body of the Press Council that determines its rules and regulations and forms its policies. The Plenum has 60 members.
- The Presidium — the executive body of the Press Council. This body has 17 members.
- The President — stands at the head of the Council, in his absence the position is filled by the deputy President.
- The Ethics Tribunal — this is the judicial body. The task of the Tribunal is to deal with complaints with regard to a breach of ethics filed against journalists and the media. All of the above tasks are carried out by members on a voluntary basis.
The Plenum of the Press Council determines the rules and regulations of Ethics. Basic decisions in the realm of journalistic ethics are dealt with in each of the Council institutions: in the Plenum, the Presidium and in the special committees that are set up for the purpose of examining various subjects.
Complaints in respect of a breach of journalistic ethics are clarified in the Ethics Tribunal. This forum consists of a public representative (who also serves as chairperson of the Tribunal) and a representative each of the publishers, the editors and the journalists. The legal adviser of the Council will determine whether a complaint justifies convening the Tribunal. In some cases the complaints are referred to a bridging process (to work out a compromise solution).
In the event of an appeal, the Tribunal will consist of five members (two of whom are representatives of the public) or seven members (where three are public representatives). In any such event, the forum will be chaired by a jurist. The Tribunal chairperson appoints the forum.
The Tribunal has the power to impose penalties. These penalties can take the form of a warning (the most lenient form of punishment) through reprimand and the publication of an apology by the newspaper — or (in the more extreme cases) punishment can be meted out to suspend the offender from the Council as well as employment cessation of the reporter. The more usual form of punishment is by publishing the decision in the newspaper.
Despite the fact that the Press Council is a voluntary body, the news media generally respect its decisions. The Ethics Tribunal also deal with complaints against journalists and media who are not members of the Press Council. In this case, the only form of punishment available to the Tribunal is publication of the decision.
The Press Council is authorized, by virtue of those bodies which it represents, to preserve the values of freedom of the press, including the free flow of information and freedom of expression. The Council representatives defend freedom of the press both in their appearances before the Knesset as well as in their efforts to garner public opinion. Inter alia, the Council strives toward abolishing legislative attempts aimed at limiting freedom of expression, it strives to prevent attempts by the authorities to act against journalists and the media, and it stands up against monopolies and cartels in the Israeli media.