The Spokesperson's Unit of the Israel Defense Forces (Dover Tzahal) is responsible for information policy and external media relations.
- Domestic Press Liason
- Foreign Press
- Public Relations
- Film & Photography Unit
- Information Bureau
- Initiatives & Planning
- Organization & Training
- The Think Tank
- Wartime Responsibilities
The IDF Spokesperson's Unit is headed by the IDF Spokesperson, a member of the General Staff with the rank of brigadier general who is directly subordinate to the Chief of Staff. The IDF Spokesperson's official responsibilities, in peace and war, are:
1.To advise the Chief of Staff on all matters of communication and information
2. To formulate and implement information policies.
The IDF Spokesperson is assisted by a deputy spokesperson, with the rank of full colonel. The Unit is divided into several branches which cover the following areas of activity: domestic and foreign press liaison, public relations, information, photography, film and video, organization and training. In addition, a new branch, responsible for initiatives and planning, has been established to advance and improve proactive media policies.
Similiar to the IDF as a whole, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit is comprised of a small regular body and a large reserve group. Reservists cover a wide range of academic professionals in many field, including journalists, broadcasters, photographers, film makers, university professors, political scientists, economists, and specialists in graphic arts, advertising, press and public relations.
This branch is the nerve center of the Spokesperson's Unit. Divided into four sections (print media, local press, electronic media and monitoring of operational dispatches), it has the following responsibilities:
1. Direct contact with editorial boards of Israeli newspapers, Israeli journalists and the electronic media.
2. Initiating coverage of all aspects of the IDF and reporting of military events.
3. Processing requests from all journalists.
4. Gathering data on security matters and assisting in the preparation of official announcements and press releases.
5. Providing accredited military correspondents with additional, in-depth information to broaden their perspectives.
6. Monitoring of mass media reporting and providing instant feedback.
As a world center for foreign media, Israel has over 300 full-time foreign news media journalists covering all the major international TV and radio stations and newspapers. At times of emergency or major newsworthy events, this number has even reached over 1,500 foreign journalists.
The Foreign Press branch of the Spokesperson's Unit is responsible for:
1. Providing foreign correspondents with periodic briefings with high-ranking military officials and escorting them to military sites.
2. Distributing periodical fact sheets and background papers prepared by the Information Bureau.
3. Assisting the Spokesperson in formulating media policy for the foreign press.
4. Liaising with the Government Press Office and the Foreign Ministry.
5. Monitoring foreign press coverage of the IDF.
The Public Relations branch is responsible for all IDF external relations with civilians (but not journalists). Divided into three sections (visitors, lectures and briefings, and public assistance), the branch is responsible for the following activities:
1. Assisting Israeli and foreign civilians wishing to visit military installations.
2. Arranging lectures and briefings for groups of individuals, clubs, government offices and schools.
3. Coordinating IDF aid to civilians, e.g., rental of equipment for civilian film makers.
4. Organizing logistics assistance for public events, e.g., at memorial services.
5.Arranging for the appearance of military entertainment troupes at public events.
6.Handling requests from authors, students and researchers for IDF assistance with their projects.
The Spokesperson's Unit produces both films and stills photography.
A special unit is responsible for films and video; it activities include:
1. Producing all IDF training, information and documentary films (including TV commercials).
2. Producing news items for the local and foreign electronic media market.
3. Documenting classified IDF events using professional photographers who have been trained in Israel and abroad.
4. Providing archival services of IDF events.
The photography unit, which is under the Domestic Press Liason branch is responsible for documenting and distributing photographs of IDF events to the appropriate agencies and other interested parties.
The Information Bureau assists the IDF Spokesperson's Unit in formulating information policy and producing and releasing printed material. This is achieved by assessing needs and recommending appropriate strategy. The Information Bureau has the following responsibilities:
1. Producing informative material, lecture outlines, briefings and visual aids in various languages for distribution to journalists, military attaches and the public in general.
2. Publishing and distributing background papers and material about the IDF to members of the press, the general public, reservists and foreign and Israeli military attaches.
3. Maintaining direct, on-going contact with government agencies, IDF information sources and public agencies.
4. Coordinating and cooperating with foreign military public affairs agencies on matters of mutual interest.
5. Maintaining data and statistics on IDF activities.
6. Organizing and conducting think tanks for advising the IDF Spokesperson's Unit on media policy and strategy.
7. Monitoring coverage on the IDF for evaluation of the effectively of the Unit's operations.
8. Producing a daily summary of Israel’s newspapers’ coverage of the IDF.
9. Maintaining the IDF Internet site.
This branch promotes proactive media policies. As such, it is responsible for the following:
1. Determining subjects that present the IDF in a favorable and positive light and which will be of interest to the public.
2. Presenting aspects of the IDF that show it as a strong, positive and professional military force prepared for both peace and wartime.
3. Highlighting the unique relationship between the IDF and the people of Israel, and its role as an integrating force in society.
4. The branch also analyzes trends in the media.
The Organization and Training branch of the Spokesperson's Unit is responsible for the following activities:
1. Organization of all matters pertaining to personnel, management, budget and supply.
2. Maintenance of emergency storehouses for emergency call-ups.
3. Training and call-up of reservists in emergencies and peace-time.
4. Running courses for reserve press officers, including periodic briefings and updates.
The Think Tank is a special group within the IDF Spokesperson's Unit which consists of reserve communications specialists who meet periodically to help the IDF Spokesperson assess the media picture and formulate short- and long-term policies. In time of emergency, members of the Think Tank operate around the clock. They are assisted by military specialists and are advised by representatives of government ministries.
In times of war, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit plays an essential role for both military personnel and the civilian population in general. The rapid release of factual information about the war is the most effective way to combat the formation of rumors encouraged by enemy propaganda and to raise civilian and military morale.
Israeli policy in time of war is to provide the media with accurate and up-to-date information. Consequently, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit concentrates on providing this information and enabling journalists to cover war events, subject to security regulations.
During wartime, the Spokesperson's Unit expands, making use of its reserve specialists to run a number of essential activities.
These activities may be summarized as follows:
1. All developments in the field, as well as the media picture, are closely monitored in a Situation Room.
2. An Information Forum, which meets twice daily, determines and ascertains IDF activities and policies in coordination with other governmental and military bodies.
3. The Think Tank helps formulate Unit policy.
4. The Press Liaison, Foreign Press and Public Relations branches of the Unit regroup into larger, mission-oriented centers.
5. The Electronic Media Center, which is a single management source for the electronic media, provides information and guidance to radio and TV, to assist them in covering the war.
6. The Press Center (Joint Information Bureau) consists of two fully-equipped locations for foreign and local press respectively. Press conferences, press releases and briefings, announcements, background material, films and photographs are distributed to journalists around the clock. In addition, direct communication lines to abroad are maintained, and arrangements are made to escort newsmen to the front.
7. Should conditions warrant, additional press centers (sub-JIBs) are set up in strategic locations in the field, near troop deployments.
8. Press liaison teams complete news coverage in the field, document events, forward news and accommodate journalists who arrive on site.
9. Operation in close cooperation with the Homefront Command (“Civil Defense”) to coordinate the release of essential emergency information and instructions to the Israeli public.
Sources: Israel Defense Forces