'Grave concerns' with Israel set to ban Al Jazeera over Gaza coverage

'Grave concerns' with Israel set to ban Al Jazeera over Gaza coverage
Israel will ban pan-Arab broadcaster Al Jazeera following critical coverage of the Gaza war, in the latest crackdown on free press in the country.
3 min read
02 April, 2024
Al Jazeera says it has been subject to a dangerous campaign by Israel [Getty]

Press organisations and media workers are "alarmed" by Israel's bid to ban broadcaster Al Jazeera, following its critical coverage of the Gaza war, in the latest crackdown on free speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government.

The Knesset on Monday overwhelmingly backed a bill to close foreign media networks accused of harming the "state's security" with authorities allowed to confiscate equipment.

Following the vote, Netanyahu pledged to ban Al Jazeera, who he accused of "actively" taking part in Hamas's 7 October attacks.

Al Jazeera slammed Netanyahu's comments as "lies", "ludicrous", and "dangerous", and part of a systematic campaign by Israel against the broadcaster and its employees.

"Netanyahu could not find any justifications to offer the world for his ongoing attacks on Al Jazeera and press freedom except to present new lies and inflammatory slanders against the Network and the rights of its employees," Al Jazeera said.

An Israeli sniper shot dead Al Jazeera's Jerusalem correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin in 2022, while two of the broadcaster's journalists in Gaza, Samer Abudaqa and Hamza Dahdouh, were killed in an Israel airstrike.

Al Jazeera's Gaza chief Wael Dahdouh was also injured in an Israeli air strike. His family members were targeted and killed by Israel, including two of his sons, his daughter, his wife and a grandchild.

The International Press Institute also condemned the move as a "blatant attack against press freedom".

"IPI is gravely concerned by a new Israeli law paving the way for the government to ban @AlJazeera," the IPI said on X, formerly Twitter.

"We urgently call on the Israeli authorities to refrain from this draconian move, which would be a blatant attack on #pressfreedom."

Dr Myriam Francois, a presenter for Al Jazeera English's 'The Stream' and documentary filmmaker, called for action by media workers against the ban.

"Israel’s attacks on Al Jazeera network make the job of journalists everywhere less safe - I’m calling on all our colleagues to stand up and be counted at this time," she said on X.

"It’s time to stand together to oppose clear attempts at censorship and obfuscation. Journalism is not a crime."

Jodie Ginsberg, the chief executive officer of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said the law was "an incredibly worrying move" for a free press.

“It’s another example of the tightening of the free press and the stranglehold the Israeli government would like to exercise," Ginsberg told Al Jazeera.

"We've seen this kind of language before from Netanyahu and Israeli officials in which they try to paint journalists as terrorists, as criminals."

Israel has killed at least 90 Palestinian journalists and three Lebanese media workers since 7 October.

Israel has also barred media entry to Gaza with only journalists embedded with the Israeli military allowed to report from the enclave.

Other journalists have been abducted and tortured by Israel, including from The New Arab's sister publications including Al-Araby Al-Jadeed's Diaa Al-Kahlout.