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20 Oct, 2023 12:47

Israel moves closer to blocking Al Jazeera

Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi has accused the Qatari network of “propaganda,” “encouraging violence,” and aiding Hamas
Israel moves closer to blocking Al Jazeera

The Israeli government has approved emergency regulations allowing it to suspend the operations of foreign media outlets amid the conflict with Hamas. The move paves the way for the closure of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera channel's bureau in the country.

Israel’s Ministry of Communications said that the new measures “allow the cessation of the activities of a foreign broadcasting organization that harms the security of the state, for the duration of the war,” in a statement on Friday, as quoted by the Ynet web portal. 

According to the ministry, the changes were backed by the Mossad intelligence agency, the Shin Bet security service, and the Ministry of Defense.

Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi lashed out at the network, whose reporter Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead by Israeli soldiers in 2022. Karhi charged that Al Jazeera's reports “constitute incitement against Israel, help Hamas-ISIS and the terror organizations with their propaganda, and encourage violence against Israel.”

According to the Times of Israel, the initiative, which must first be approved by Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and the Security Cabinet, empowers authorities to order TV providers to block broadcasting of designated outlets, close their local offices, seize their equipment, and restrict access to their websites.

The measure is expected to be greenlit during the next cabinet meeting. If passed, it will remain valid for 30 days and can be extended for the same period as long as the state of emergency remains in place.

While Al Jazeera itself has yet to comment on the matter, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has expressed deep concern over the development, slamming Israel for what it described as an “attempt to censor media coverage of the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict.” It added that Israel is “using national security as an excuse to restrict critical media that do not confirm its narrative of the war.”

Israeli officials have been trying to shut down Al Jazeera’s bureau in the country since at least 2017 when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the outlet of “incitement.” At the time, the Doha-based network condemned those plans and insisted it would continue to “professionally and accurately” cover events in the Palestinian-populated territories.

The new regulatory move comes after Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel earlier this month, with the ensuing hostilities resulting in thousands of deaths and injuries. Israel responded by launching attacks on the Palestinian enclave and ordering a complete blockade.