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Israel Moves To Shut Down Al Jazeera After New Law Allows For ‘Security Threat’ Bans On International Media

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to shut down news network Al Jazeera following the passage Monday of a sweeping law allowing the government to ban foreign networks perceived as posing a threat to national security.

Netanyahu said he intended “to act immediately per the new law” to stop the Qatari-based news outlet’s activity in the country, according to a post on the social media platform “X” following the passage of the law.

Al Jazeera Media Network, which has produced dogged, on-the-ground reporting of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, slammed the decision in a statement, vowing it would not stop the network from continuing its “bold and professional coverage.”

The new law gives the prime minister and communications minister authority to order the temporary closure of foreign networks operating in Israel—powers that rights groups say could have far-reaching implications on international media coverage of the war in Gaza.

Its approval by Parliament Monday comes months into Israel’s war against Hamas and as Netanyahu faces mounting public pressure—and large public protests—over his handling of operations in Gaza.

Netanyahu’s government has also long complained about Al Jazeera’s operations, alleging anti-Israeli bias.

Related: Israelis Are Arming Up In The Aftermath Of Hamas’ Attack
In his statement on “X”, on Monday, the prime minister accused the network of being a trumpet for Hamas and accused it of “actively participating in the October 7 massacre and inciting against IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) soldiers.”

Al Jazeera, which is funded in part by the Qatari government, said these were “slanderous accusations” that “jeopardize” not only the reputation of Al Jazeera but also the safety and rights of its employees worldwide.

Rights groups condemned the move to shutter Al Jazeera and the law’s potential implications.

In a statement, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said it was “deeply concerned” by the new legislation.

“The law grants the government the power to close any foreign media outlets operating in Israel, posing a significant threat to international media within the country,” programme director Carlos Martínez de la Serna said, adding it would “contribute to a climate of self-censorship and hostility towards the press.”

Blocking Al Jazeera “marks an alarming escalation, and Israeli efforts restrict the freedom of the press and further limit the access that citizens of the world have to the daily realities in Israel and Palestine,” Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir told CNN.

The White House also called reports of the move to shutter Al Jazeera “concerning.”

“The United States supports the critically important work journalists around the world do. And that includes those who are reporting on the conflict in Gaza,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday during a press briefing.

The move also comes during a critical period for relations between the Israeli and Qatari governments. The Gulf State has played a key role in ceasefire negotiations in the ongoing war.

Fighting between Israel and Hamas began on October 7 when Hamas carried out a deadly attack on Israel, killing more than 1,200 people and taking some 250 hostages, according to Israel.

Israeli forces have since launched months of ongoing bombardment and ground operations in the Hamas-ruled enclave of Gaza, where the death toll stands at more than 32,000, according to the Ministry of Health in the strip.

Targeting Al Jazeera
The new law places a raft of restrictions on Al Jazeera in Israel, giving the government authority to take action against offices operated by the network and confiscate equipment and reporters’ press cards. It can also restrict its broadcasts and public access to its website.

Al Jazeera has an office in Jerusalem, as well as in the West Bank and Gaza.

Since the start of the war, it has produced critical, on-the-ground coverage of Israeli military operations and their humanitarian impact on the embattled enclave.

Last month, a United Nations spokesperson condemned the reported arrest and assault of Al Jazeera Arabic correspondent Ismail Al-Ghoul while he was reporting from the Al Shifa Medical Complex in Gaza City.

Several Al Jazeera reporters and their family members have also been killed in Israeli air strikes, according to the network.

On October 25, an air raid killed the family of Gaza bureau chief Wael Dahdouh, including his wife, son, daughter, grandson and at least eight other relatives, it said.

Al Jazeera broadcast Dahdouh as he walked into the mortuary to view the bodies of his family in a heart-wrenching moment that provided a window for the world into the grief and loss experienced by many Gaza residents as Israel’s military operations got underway.

Israeli’s passage of the law and move to ban the network come amid mounting concerns from press freedom groups about causalities among journalists operating in war zones there and what they describe as obstruction of journalistic work by Israeli authorities.

As of April 1, 2024, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ preliminary investigations showed at least 95 journalists and media workers had been killed since the war began.

Palestinian journalists, including those working for a handful of international news agencies still operating inside Gaza, are vital witnesses to what is happening there. Israel’s military has taken some foreign reporters inside Gaza on a small number of escorted trips since October 7. But both Israel and Egypt, which control Gaza’s borders, have so far refused to let international journalists have unfettered access.

Source: CNN report.

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