Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Strong reactions to Israel’s gagging of Al Jazeera


Al Jazeera’s offices in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank are not covered by the ban. The office is adorned with pictures of Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot in the head during an Israeli military operation in 2022. Photo: Nasser Nasser / AP / NTB

Of NTB | 05.05.2024 20:34:57

Culture and entertainment: – With this decision, Israel joins a club of authoritarian governments that ban the TV station. This is a dark day for the media, a dark day for democracy, says the Foreign Press Association in Israel.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) describes the closure as an attack on press freedom.

– Rather than silence the reports of the atrocities in Gaza, the Israeli government should stop committing them, says the American human rights organization’s Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir.

The Palestinian Association of Journalists also condemns the decision, describing it as a war crime.

– The world community is completely dependent on the media to get credible information about the situation. Banning a news medium like Al Jazeera is a direct attack on press freedom, says Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide (Ap) to Television 2.

– It is a serious attack on press freedom and not something we are used to associating with Israel as a traditional liberal democracy, says the Editors’ Association’s assistant general secretary Solveig Husøy to Television 2.

– It is time to remove Hamas’ mouthpiece from our country, he said.

The ban is primarily valid for 45 days, with the possibility of extension.

The order means that Israel’s Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi has been given the green light to seize the TV channel’s equipment, close its offices in Israel and limit access from Israel to Al Jazeera’s website, writes Haaretz.

A few hours later, the screens with Al Jazeera’s Arabic and English channels went black and were replaced by a message in Hebrew that they are “tuned in Israel”.

Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem offices were closed, and images on social media show equipment being carried out of the hotel in occupied East Jerusalem that housed the media house’s offices.

The ban does not cover the rest of the Israeli-occupied West Bank or the Gaza Strip, from which Al Jazeera continues its live broadcasts from the war.

Al Jazeera rejects the accusations and chastises the ban.

– The Netanyahu government has in a misleading and calculated manner approved the order to close Al Jazeera’s offices in Israel, the channel says.

The channel condemns what they refer to as an “Israeli criminal act” that violates the human right of access to information.

– We confirm that we will seek all opportunities from international and legal organizations to protect our rights and our employees, it says further.

The UN also reminds that freedom of expression is a central human right and asks Israel’s government to reverse the decision.

– A free and independent press is essential to ensure transparency and accountability. Especially now with the strict restrictions on reporting from Gaza, says the UN human rights office according to Reuters.

During the first 150 days of the war, at least 103 journalists were killed in the Gaza Strip, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Among them are several of Al Jazeera’s journalists. In December, the channel’s Gaza chief, Wael al-Dahdouh, was wounded in an Israeli attack that also killed Al Jazeera’s cameraman. Dahdou’s wife, two of their children and a grandson were killed in October. Dahdou’s eldest son, also an Al Jazeera journalist, was killed in an attack on a car in Rafah in January.

The TV channel is publicly funded, and the closure of Al Jazeera’s offices in Israel could also lead to a more tense relationship between Israel and Qatar.

Israel has accused Al Jazeera journalists of terrorism, while the media house accuses Israel of systematically attacking its staff in Gaza.

Recently, the Israeli National Assembly passed a new law which allows for foreign national broadcasters to be closed temporarily if they are considered a threat to national security in connection with Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip.

“Al Jazeera correspondents have harmed Israel’s security,” Netanyahu said on Sunday, accusing the journalists of inciting violence against Israeli soldiers.

Both Norway’s foreign minister and the Norwegian Editors’ Association believe the decision is an attack on press freedom.

The decision in the Israeli government was unanimous, says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel has long accused Al Jazeera of being one-sided and biased, and already ten years ago the then foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman advocated banning the channel from operating in Israel.

Al Jazeera has played an important role in the press coverage of the war in the Gaza Strip as it is one of the few media that still has its own journalists and photographers inside the Palestinian area.

The TV channel is headquartered in Qatar, the country that also houses Hamas’ leadership in exile, and which is a mediator in the negotiations between Israel and Hamas.


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