Helena Lyng Blak
3 weeks ago

Al Jazeera Shut Down in Israel

Israeli authorities have shut down Al Jazeera, citing accusations of incitement to violence, sparking widespread backlash over press freedom.
New York, USA - March 26, 2019: Arabian News media Al Jazeera website homepage. Al Jazeera logo visible through a magnifying glass. — Photo by AntonGarin / DepositPhotos
New York, USA - March 26, 2019: Arabian News media Al Jazeera website homepage. Al Jazeera logo visible through a magnifying glass. — Photo by AntonGarin / DepositPhotos

On Sunday, May 5, the Israeli government unanimously approved the immediate closure of news network Al Jazeera in the country.

The order, signed by Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, will be effective immediately. Al Jazeera's offices will be closed, its broadcasting equipment confiscated, and its journalists prevented from broadcasting. The company's news channels will also be removed from satellite and cable services, and its website will be blocked in Israel.

The Israeli government is acting under a law that permits the communications minister to close any foreign media outlet if the prime minister, supported by a security opinion, is convinced that the outlet is harming the state. Approval from the Israeli government or Security Cabinet is also required.

“There will be no freedom of expression for Hamas’s mouthpieces”

According to the Israeli government, Al Jazeera is being closed in Israel for allegedly inciting violence against the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), harming the security in Israel, and working as “mouthpieces” for Hamas.

Of the decision to shut down Al Jazeera in Israel, Communications Minister Karhi spoke in no uncertain terms, stating in a briefing that, 

“We will take immediate action against those who use freedom of the press to harm the security of Israel and IDF soldiers, and incite to terrorism in time of war. There will be no freedom of expression for Hamas's mouthpieces in Israel. Al Jazeera will be closed immediately and its equipment will be confiscated.”

The minister further declared that, “The decision has been made and it will be implemented, 'G-d will fight for you and you shall hold your peace' [Exodus 14:14] – you will silence the mouthpieces and incitement of the enemy.”

“Straight from the despots playbook”

The decision has been met with its share of pushback. 

Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, currently a columnist at the newspaper Haaretz, told Al Jazeera English that, in his opinion, “to close this down means to close down the option of free press in Israel.”

On X, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), strongly condemned Israel’s “repressive legislation”. The General Secretary for the International Federation of Journalists Anthony Bellanger shared a similar sentiment, saying on X, “Banning journalists and shutting down broadcasters are moves straight from the despots playbook.”

About Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera is a private media network, headquartered in and financially supported by Qatar. Its flagship channels include Al Jazeera Arabic and Al Jazeera English, the latter of which was the world’s first English-language news channel based in the Middle East. 

Al Jazeera furthermore claims to be the “first independent news channel in the Arab world,” and has received multiple prominent awards for its journalism, including four Peabody awards. 

However, this is not the first time the news network has faced controversy. Over the years Al Jazeera has found itself at the receiving end of multiple criticisms and controversies, including an alleged pro-Qatar and anti-Israel bias in its reporting.

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