Israeli ban on Al Jazeera slammed as a ‘criminal and dangerous’ decision

Closure of Al Jazeera in Israel
Closure of Al Jazeera in Israel . .. worldwide condemnation. Image: AJ screenshot APR

Asia Pacific Report

Haggai Matar, executive director of the independent +972 Magazine, has described the Tel Aviv government’s decision to shut down Al Jazeera in Israel as “an attack on free speech and freedom of the press”.

The Israeli journalist told Al Jazeera the ban was “clearly a criminal and very dangerous decision”.

He described the move as an attack on Israel itself because it denies the country’s citizens alternative sources of information.

"We've shown Gaza's suffering for over 200 days
“We’ve shown Gaza’s suffering for over 200 days. Don’t look away now.” +972 Magazine headline. Image: +972

“We have very limited access to information coming out of Gaza in Israeli media outlets,” Matar said.

He said the absence of Al Jazeera journalists within Israel meant that different voices from Israeli society would also be heard less around the world.

His condemnation joined criticism from media freedom watchdogs and news media around the world.

+972 Magazine is an independent, online, nonprofit magazine run by a group of Palestinian and Israeli journalists.

Founded in 2010, its mission is described on its website as to provide in-depth reporting, analysis, and opinions from the ground in Israel-Palestine.

The name of the site is derived from the telephone country code that can be used to dial throughout Israel-Palestine.

Al Jazeera’s final report from Israel before the ban.     Video: AJ

The Israeli government decision to close the award-winning Al Jazeera network’s operations in Israel came just two days after World Press Freedom Day when the Palestinian journalists covering the war on Gaza were awarded the Guillermo Cano world press freedom prize.

Al Jazeera Media Network condemned the Israeli government’s decision as a “criminal act” and warned that the country’s suppression of the free press “stands in contravention of international and humanitarian law”.

‘Violates human rights’
“Al Jazeera Media Network strongly condemns and denounces this criminal act that violates human rights and the basic right to access of information. Al Jazeera affirms its right to continue to provide news and information to its global audiences,” the network said in a statement last night.

“Israel’s ongoing suppression of the free press, seen as an effort to conceal its actions in the Gaza Strip, stands in contravention of international and humanitarian law.

Israel’s direct targeting and killing of journalists, arrests, intimidation and threats will not deter Al Jazeera from its commitment to cover, whilst more than 140 Palestinian journalists have been killed since the beginning of the war on Gaza.

“The Network vehemently rejects the allegations presented by Israeli authorities suggesting professional media standards have been violated. It reaffirms its unwavering commitment to the values embodied by its Code of Ethics,” it said.

The statement comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet voted unanimously to close Al Jazeera’s operations in Israel, weeks after Israel’s Parliament passed a law allowing the temporary closure of foreign broadcasters considered to be a threat to national security during the seven-month war in Gaza.

Meanwhile, in Washington, the National Press Club has condemned the Israeli government’s ban on Al Jazeera, calling it a “wrong” move for the country, for Palestinians and the rest of the world.

Emily Wilkins, the president of the National Press Club, said the group fully supports Al Jazeera’s decision to fight the case in court.

“As a democracy, the people of Israel depend upon the free flow of information,  particularly right now when the decisions their government is making are so enormously impactful for the future of their country’s relationships in the Middle East and with the broader international community,” she said.

“Most chilling about this decision is what it will mean for Al Jazeera  journalists and crews  working and living in Gaza.

“They are not mentioned in the government decision. By branding Al Jazeera as a national security threat, we are deeply concerned that the Israeli government  may view  them as legitimate military targets. They are not.”

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