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Israel: Al Jazeera goes off air after government order

Published May 5, 2024last updated May 5, 2024

The Qatari TV network is no longer available in Israel after the Cabinet voted to suspend it. Israel has had a tense relationship with the broadcaster, accusing it of bias and incitement.

A man walks pas the Al Jazeera logo
The Israeli government has had a strained relationship with the Qatari-owned broadcaster which has worsened since the beginning of the war in GazaImage: Kamran Jebreili/AP Photo/picture alliance

The Al Jazeera TV network was taken off the air in Israel on Sunday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Cabinet voted to suspend the broadcaster's operations.

The decision follows a law — commonly referred to as the "Al Jazeera law" — passed by the Israeli Knesset that allows the closure of foreign broadcasters considered to pose a security threat amid the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

"My government decided unanimously: the incitement channel Al Jazeera will close in Israel," Netanyahu posted on X, formerly Twitter.

Al Jazeera on Sunday again rejected accusations from Israel that its reporting from Gaza was biased.

"The Netanyahu government has decided in a highly misleading and calumnious step to endorse the order to shut down Al Jazeera offices in Israel," the network said.

It called the move a "criminal act" that violates the human right of access to information.

"We confirm that we will pursue all avenues at international and legal organizations to protect our rights and crews," it added without elaborating.

What we know about the ban

Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said on X that the order would take immediate effect.

According to Israeli media, the order can suspend broadcasting in the country for 45 days. It also allows authorities to confiscate broadcasting equipment.

Al Jazeera's senior English correspondent in Israel, Imran Khan, said that alongside the TV channel, the website was also being blocked.

He said devices used for providing content to Al Jazeera were also banned, meaning his phone could be confiscated if he uses it for news gathering.

"It’s a wide-ranging ban and we do not know how long it will be in place for," he added, according to his statement on Al Jazeera's website.

"The background of this decision is not professional or journalistic ... it's political," said Waleed Omari, bureau chief of Al Jazeera in Israel and the Palestinian territories, adding that the network was preparing a legal response.

Israeli police raid Al Jazeera offices in Jerusalem: journalist Balig Sladeen

Israel's relationship with the Qatari broadcaster

Israel has had a tense relationship with the Qatar-based news organization, which has intensely covered the ongoing war in Gaza with a particular focus on the Palestinian side.

One of the few media organizations that has continued to function in Gaza since October 7, Al Jazeera has broadcast images and videos of deadly airstrikes and crowded hospitals under Israeli fire.

Israel has accused the network of working with Hamas.

Qatar, which owns the network, has been involved in mediating a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas — a Palestinian militant group considered a terror organization by Israel, the US, Germany and other countries.

Netanyahu pushes to shut Israeli office of Al Jazeera TV

Numerous journalists have been killed in Gaza during Israel's military offensive, including several who worked for Al Jazeera.

The death of the Palestinian-American reporter Shireen Abu Akleh in May 2022 sparked global outrage. She had been reporting for the network during an Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank when she was shot dead.

Al Jazeera blamed the Israeli military for the death and took the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Israel has rejected the accusation.

ab/sms (Reuters, AP, AFP)