Freedom of the Press Under Fire: Al Jazeera's Shutdown in Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today that his government has unanimously decided to close the local offices of Qatari TV Al-Jazeera

by Sededin Dedovic
Freedom of the Press Under Fire: Al Jazeera's Shutdown in Israel
© Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images

Today, Israel's primary cable television provider pulled the plug on the Al Jazeera news network, citing a ban imposed by the Israeli government on Sunday. The move came shortly after Israeli inspectors and police entered Al Jazeera's office in Jerusalem to seize equipment, The Times of Israel reports.

Hot, the cable company, halted Al Jazeera's English and Arabic broadcasts on Sunday afternoon in deference to the government's decision, which was prominently displayed on viewers' screens. Although Al Jazeera's Arabic and English websites continue to operate in Israel, the station remains available to watch live on YouTube in both languages, according to the Associated Press.

A video by Information Minister Shlomo Karhi shows a police inventory of equipment at Al Jazeera's premises in East Jerusalem. The action follows the government's decision to shut down Al Jazeera in Israel for 45 days, under a temporary law passed in April that allows for the temporary closure of foreign media suspected of threatening national security, The Times of Israel reports.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that his government has unanimously decided to close the local branches of the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera network. Netanyahu made the announcement via a social media platform, but details regarding the impact of the move on the network and when it would begin, whether permanent or temporary, remain undisclosed.

The decision marks the culmination of Israel's longstanding opposition to Al Jazeera, potentially exacerbating tensions with Qatar, the network's owner, at a time when Doha is playing a key role in brokering a temporary ceasefire in Gaza.

Israel has long accused Al Jazeera of bias, as one of the few media outlets that remained in Gaza during the conflict. Al Jazeera's coverage often includes footage of airstrikes, overcrowded hospitals and accusations against Israel of massacres.

Israeli leaders allege that Al Jazeera is cooperating with Hamas.

Relatives and friends bid farewell to the body of Al Jazeera cameraman Samer Abu Daqqa, who was killed while working in an air s© Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images

Al Jazeera has not yet responded to requests for comment on the decision, only publishing a news report on the matter.

Their Arabic service often features video statements from representatives of Hamas and other extremist organizations in the region. The network also faced criticism from the United States during the US occupation of Iraq after the 2003 invasion and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet has decided to shut down Al Jazeera's local operations in Israel for the duration of the conflict in Gaza, citing the Qatari network as a threat to national security. "Al Jazeera's incitement channel will be closed in Israel," Netanyahu announced on social media after the cabinet's unanimous vote.

The government's statement noted that Israel's communications minister had signed orders for the emergency action, although Al Jazeera could potentially challenge the decision in court. The measures include closing Al Jazeera's offices in Israel, confiscating broadcast equipment, removing channels from cable and satellite companies and blocking websites.

Al Jazeera, which is funded by the Qatari government, has criticized Israel's military operations in Gaza, with its journalists covering the entire conflict. The Israeli government statement did not mention Al Jazeera's operations in Gaza.

Israel's parliament last month ratified a law allowing the temporary closure of foreign broadcasters in Israel deemed a threat to national security. Al Jazeera has previously dismissed allegations of a threat to Israel's security, saying the shutdown was an attempt to silence them.

The law allows Netanyahu and the security cabinet to shut down Al Jazeera in Israel for 45 days, with the option to renew the decision, potentially extending the shutdown until the end of July or until the end of major military operations in Gaza.

The Israeli government unanimously decided to close Al Jazeera's offices in Israel on Sunday, AA reports. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that his government has decided to shut down Al Jazeera in Israel.

Last month, Israel's Knesset (parliament) passed a law allowing the closure of foreign broadcasters, including Al Jazeera. Under the law, the communications minister has the power to shut down foreign media outlets operating in Israel and confiscate their equipment if the defense minister determines that their broadcasts pose "real harm to the security of the state." "Our orders take effect immediately," Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said after signing the order to shut down the channel.

He stated that "too much time has passed and there have been too many unnecessary legal obstacles to finally stop Al Jazeera's well-oiled incitement machine, which harms the security of the country." Al Jazeera has an office in Israel and a team of correspondents working year-round, including coverage of Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, which have resulted in the deaths of more than 34,600 Palestinians since October 7 of last year.

Benjamin Netanyahu