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Israel to ban Al Jazeera, PM announces

Tuesday, April 2nd 2024 - 22:00 UTC
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Netanyahu insisted the station was Hamas' bullhorn and a terrorist channel Netanyahu insisted the station was Hamas' bullhorn and a terrorist channel

Press freedom advocates worldwide expressed concern Monday after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would use newly passed temporary legislation to shut down the local operations of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera news service. The new law will only be in effect for 45 days and must be re-approved every 45 days, expiring on July 31. The judges have three days to decide whether to “amend” the decision or limit its duration.

Netanyahu, who is recovering from hernia surgery, vowed to “act immediately to stop Al Jazeera's operations” after the Knesset (Israel's parliament) approved by 71 votes to 10 a bill giving the prime minister and communications minister the authority to order the closure of foreign networks operating in Israel and confiscate their equipment if they are deemed to be “harming the security of the state.”

“Al Jazeera has harmed Israel's security, actively participated in the October 7 massacre and incited against Israeli soldiers,” Netanyahu wrote on X. “It is time to remove the megaphone of Hamas from our country,” he added. “The terrorist network Al Jazeera will no longer broadcast from Israel. I intend to act immediately in accordance with the new law to stop the channel's activity.”

Israel's communications minister, Shlomo Karhi, said Al Jazeera had acted as a “propaganda arm of Hamas” by “encouraging armed struggle against Israel.”

Karhi led government efforts to pass the law after reports emerged that the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) had warned that Al Jazeera broadcasts revealed the location of troops.

“It is impossible to tolerate a media outlet with press credentials from the government press office and offices in Israel acting against us from within, especially during a time of war,” he continued.

“There will be no freedom of expression for Hamas organs in Israel. Al Jazeera will be shut down in the coming days,” Karhi said in a written statement after the law was passed. “We have brought an efficient and quick tool to act against those who use the freedom of the press to harm Israeli security and IDF soldiers and to incite terror in times of war,” he added.

His office said the order would seek to block the channel's broadcasts in Israel and prevent it from operating in the country. The order would not apply to the West Bank or Gaza, where Al Jazeera also has offices. In May 2022, Israeli forces shot and killed senior Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh while she was covering an Israeli military raid in the West Bank city of Jenin. A United Nations-commissioned report concluded that Israeli forces used “lethal force without justification” in the killing. In January, Israel accused an Al Jazeera staff journalist and a freelancer killed in a bombing in Gaza of being “terrorist operatives.” Tel Aviv also claimed that another journalist for the Qatar-based network who was wounded in an attack was a “deputy company commander” for Hamas.

The network called Netanyahu's posts “slanderous accusations.”

“Al Jazeera holds the Israeli prime minister responsible for the safety of its staff and network facilities around the world, following his incitement and this disgraceful false accusation,” the agency said in a statement.

“Al Jazeera reiterates that such slanderous accusations will not deter us from continuing our courageous and professional reporting, and reserves the right to pursue all legal avenues.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a media freedom watchdog, said the new Israeli law “poses a significant threat to international media” that “contributes to a climate of self-censorship and hostility toward the press.”

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' spokesman, Stephen Dujarric, said in New York that he was concerned by the law's passage: “Any restriction on the right of journalists to operate anywhere in the world is of deep concern. And we're seeing, frankly, a negative trend in that regard around the world,” he stressed.

“We believe in freedom of the press. It is critically important. The United States supports the critically important work that journalists do around the world,” said White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre. “That includes those reporting on the conflict in Gaza,” she continued.

Categories: Politics, International.

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