Organization: The Whistle
Applicant: Boaz Rakocz
Assessor: Mark Lavie
Edits made by the organization after this assessment
IFCN Staff wrote:
For criterion 2b: We added a brief explanation of our policy preventing staff from direct involvement in political advocacy organizations.
For criterion 4a) We listed all of our donors and explained how the organization's funds are allocated.
For criterion 4b) We added the students, mentioned they are volunteers and do only media monitoring, and added a new staff member.
* Here is the link to the transparency part in our website. https://www.thewhistle.co.il/transparency
Conclusion and recommendations
Mark Lavie wrote:
The Whistle” should be accepted as a member by IFCN with some changes.
The Hebrew-language operation has been in operation for only three months and appears to be the only agency of its kind in the country. It is properly registered with the Israeli government as an NGO. So far its work has been of high standards in fairness and impartiality. It grades statements of public figures as to accuracy, and clearly explains how and why it reaches its conclusions, which appear to be accurate so far. It examines statements from all segments of the Israeli political spectrum, grading individual statements in four categories: correct, mostly correct, mostly false, and false. Based on replies, it is considering adding another category: “Misleading.”
It has a clear and approachable method for readers to complain, demand changes and comment. Its application claims that so far it has made no mistakes, which, considering its short time in existence is not surprising.
Besides the fact that it has been operating for only three months, there are transparency issues:
The website gives a pie chart that represents its funding, listing 16% from the New Israel Fund, 10% from the Moriah Fund and 74% from “private donors.” No further breakdown is offered. The two funds are known, somewhat unfairly, for supporting leftist causes, which include rights for Israeli Arabs, Ethiopian Jews, human rights and women’s rights, actively opposing government policy in these areas. This leaves “The Whistle” open to charges of liberal bias which, so far, would be unfounded. Israeli law does not require disclosure of the identity of private donors, but you might have a different standard there, especially when the proportion is so high. There is no disclosure either of total funding or how the funds are spent.
“The Whistle” has been posting investigations every day or two, but it lists only a small staff, one of whom is “in charge of investigations,” and one other is called “investigator.” If there are other people involved in the work, they are not listed. Also, they are allowed to be members of political parties, but are banned from direct political activity. In Israel, joining a political party may be required for voting in primary elections but not in a general election, so joining a party and paying its annual dues is a public sign of identification with its policies. If any of the staff listed on the website are members of political parties, this is not disclosed.
On its website, “The Whistle” claims to adhere to the guidelines and principles of IFCN. That may be accurate, but the entry might be taken to imply that “The Whistle” is already a member, so unless you have approved that reference, it appears out of place.