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Israel’s Ban on Al Jazeera: Impact on Reporting and International Reactions

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Israel's Ban on Al Jazeera Impact on Reporting and International Reactions

(CTN News) – On Sunday, Israel’s government unanimously resolved to close Al Jazeera’s offices and ban its broadcasts.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the decision on X. Hours later, Israel’s Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi released video footage on X showing Israeli authorities – especially inspectors from the Ministry of Communications, accompanied by police – invading the Al Jazeera office in East Jerusalem and seizing the channel’s equipment.

Here’s all you need to know about Israel’s Al Jazeera ban and how it may affect reporting on the Gaza war.

Why did Israel shut down Al-Jazeera?

The blackout comes a month after Israel’s Knesset passed legislation on April 1 authorizing Israel to temporarily shut down international media sites, including Al Jazeera, if it deems them a threat to security.

In a recent story, Imran Khan of Al Jazeera, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, went into greater detail on the law. According to the law, the Al Jazeera website is prohibited in Israel, “including anything that has the option of entering or accessing the website, even passwords that are required, whether paid or not, and whether stored on Israeli servers or outside of Israel,” Khan added.

Furthermore, he stated that the Al Jazeera television channel is forbidden in Israel. Within the country, cable companies now display a warning indicating that the network is no longer broadcastable; nevertheless, in East Jerusalem, some residents have told Al Jazeera that they could still watch the channel on television as of Monday afternoon.

Khan said that the internet service provider that runs “is also in danger of being fined if they host the website”.

Akiva Eldar, a political analyst and contributor to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, told Al Jazeera that the shutdown is “a very populist move to feed the beast of public opinion that is very disappointed with the government’s conduct in Gaza and in the international arena,” adding that it is also “to please the partners from the radical right.”

Netanyahu’s government is supported by a coalition of far-right parties and leaders, including Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir, who hold significant cabinet roles.

According to Karhi’s office, Al Jazeera would be shut down for 45 days, which can be extended under the law signed on April 1.

When the measure was passed, Netanyahu promised to “act immediately” to terminate Al Jazeera’s activities. The shutdown, which occurred a month later, coincides with critical war negotiations between Israel and Hamas, which are being mediated by Egypt and Qatar, where Al Jazeera’s headquarters are located.

Israel has already attacked Al Jazeera, with Netanyahu threatening to close its Jerusalem office in 2017 and an Israeli rocket destroying the broadcaster’s Gaza office in 2021. Many Al Jazeera journalists, as well as their families, have been murdered by Israeli fire or bombardment, especially during the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

What was Al Jazeera’s reaction?

Al Jazeera condemned the suspension as a “criminal act” and warned that Israel’s repression of the free press violated international and humanitarian law.

The statement added that Al Jazeera would continue to provide news to a global audience.

How will the ban affect Al Jazeera’s reporting?

Al Jazeera’s correspondents, including those from occupied East Jerusalem, may no longer report from Israel. This is because both the main office in West Jerusalem and the office in occupied East Jerusalem were closed, and equipment was seized.

Karhi ordered the confiscation of editing and routing equipment, cameras, microphones, servers, laptops, wireless transmission equipment, and certain mobile phones.

In the pre-recorded report, Al Jazeera’s Khan also stated that Israel prohibits using any gadget for content delivery. “This includes my mobile phone. If I utilize that for any form of news gathering, the Israelis will simply confiscate it.”

While it is unclear how the suspension would affect Al Jazeera correspondents in Gaza or the occupied West Bank, Israel controls much of the access to both Palestinian territories.

Al Jazeera has previously condemned attacks on its journalists and offices as attempts to silence them from reporting on Israel’s abuses of Palestinians, particularly during the current conflict.

Why is this significant?

Israel has primarily barred foreign journalists’ entry into Gaza since the war began on October 7.

Al Jazeera’s correspondents in Gaza were among the few from a major international media organization to cover the horrific Israeli bombardment and deaths in the Palestinian enclave for a worldwide audience.

In February, over 50 international broadcast, journalists signed an open letter to Egyptian and Israeli officials requesting “free and unfettered access to Gaza for all foreign media”.

What is the reaction to Al Jazeera’s ban?

Journalism advocacy groups and authorities worldwide condemned the restriction, warning that it will stifle the free flow of information and chill democratic values.

“Israel makes much of being a democracy, and I think the idea that it can simply close down an international broadcaster of considerable repute and history is atrocious,” Tim Dawson of the International Federation of Journalists told Al Jazeera. “Sadly, it is part of a long set of actions that the Israeli government has taken to try and thwart free reporting of this conflict.”

Speaking from the White House in Washington, DC, on Monday, National Security Advisor John Kirby emphasized that the administration of US President Joe Biden opposed the closure of Al Jazeera Israel.

“We don’t support that action, as we said very clearly on World Press Freedom Day on Friday,” Kirby explained.

“The job of independent journalists around the world is very critical. It is crucial not just to have an informed populace and public, but also to help inform policy-making. So we don’t support it at all.”

On Sunday, the UN Human Rights Office slammed the shutdown in a post on social media platform X.

Yanis Varoufakis, a Greek economist and former finance minister, condemned the shutdown in a post on Monday. “Israel’s ban of Al Jazeera is one part of its War of Truth. It attempts to keep Israelis from learning about what is going on in Gaza,” he wrote.

On X, many others mentioned Israel’s proclaimed plan to conduct a ground invasion in Gaza’s Rafah, the latest such land assault in seven months of unremitting war, which has killed over 34,700 Palestinians.

A United Kingdom politician, Diane Abbott, blasted the shutdown in an X post on Monday.

Arsi Mughal is a staff writer at CTN News, delivering insightful and engaging content on a wide range of topics. With a knack for clear and concise writing, he crafts articles that resonate with readers. Arsi's pieces are well-researched, informative, and presented in a straightforward manner, making complex subjects accessible to a broad audience. His writing style strikes the perfect balance between professionalism and casual approachability, ensuring an enjoyable reading experience.

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