BBC News claim of ‘illiberal directions’ does not hold water

h/t AW

An article by an outside contributor which appeared on the BBC News website on December 22nd discusses “2016 and the liberal story“.harari-art

“2016 has been a momentous year. The UK’s Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump confounded expectations while the wars in Syria and Yemen caused more bloodshed. BBC Radio 4’s Today programme asked top historians for their assessment of the year.”

In that article by historian Yuval Noah Harari, readers find the following:

“However, since the global financial crisis of 2008, people all over the world have become increasingly disillusioned with the liberal story.

It is no longer so clear that the Chinese Communist Party is on the wrong side of history, and authoritarian rulers such as Putin, Erdogan and Netanyahu are taking their countries in distinctly illiberal directions.” [emphasis added]

The Oxford dictionary defines ‘authoritarian‘ as: “favouring or enforcing strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom” and ‘illiberal‘ as: “opposed to liberal principles; restricting freedom of thought or behavior”.

Freedom House’s ‘Freedom in the World’ index for 2016 categorises Russia as ‘Not Free’ and Turkey as ‘Partly Free’, noting a downward trend. Were Israel also showing signs of going in “illiberal directions” in recent years, one would of course similarly expect to see that trend documented by Freedom House.

Israel, however, is categorised by Freedom House as ‘Free’ – as has consistently been the case since 1972 and as can be seen in the data from 1998 onwards currently available on the Freedom House website. During those last 18 years, Israel has consistently received the highest possible score for ‘political rights’. Its score for ‘civil liberties’ and its ‘freedom rating’ have only improved. Since the election of Netanyahu in 2009 and following his subsequent re-election in 2013 and 2015, there has been no change whatsoever in Freedom House’s assessment.

With Freedom House showing no evidence to support the allegation of a shift in “distinctly illiberal directions” in Israel, the BBC clearly needs to remove that inaccurate and misleading claim.

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