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Israel legalizes banning int’l news outlets

KARACHI (NPTV/IFJ): On Monday (1st April, 2024) the Israeli parliament passed a bill that grants the government the power to temporarily ban the broadcasting of international news outlets in Israel, if they are deemed threatening to national security.

Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu announced his intention to act immediately to halt Al Jazeera’s operations in the country.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urges the Israeli government not to shut down the Jerusalem bureau of Al Jazeera and to stop using “national security” as an excuse to censor critical Media.

The IFJ is concerned at the government’s drift towards restricting Press freedom and curtailing journalists’ capacities to operate in Israel, a worrying trend that has only escalated since the start of the war in Gaza in October 2023.

The Israeli government has regularly targeted the Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera and has threatened to close it down, on the grounds of alleged bias against Israel.

However, their relationship has further deteriorated since the start of the war in Gaza.

The new legislation, passed by the parliament on 1st April, authorizes officials to do so after consultations and approval from legal and security officials.

“The terrorist channel Al Jazeera will no longer broadcast from Israel. I intend to act immediately in accordance with the new law to stop the channel’s activity,” wrote Netanyahu on ‘X’ on 1st April, accusing Al Jazeera of harming Israel’s security and actively participating in the 7th October massacre.

The new law gives the prime minister and the communications minister the authority to order the temporary closure of foreign Media operating in Israel and confiscate their equipment, if they are “doing actual harm to state security”, the Times of Israel reported.

According to the new legislation, these orders will be valid for 45 days and can be renewed for further 45-day periods.

Before enforcing any temporary ban on foreign media, Israel’s security agencies must present to the government an opinion proving there is a threat to national security.

On 20th October 2023, the Israeli government approved an emergency regulation to shut down critical media alleged to undermine national security.

Although the regulation appeared to be primarily aimed at the operations of Al Jazeera, it was enforced for the first time on 13th November against the Lebanese channel Al-Mayadeen TV, to which access was blocked in Israel. The IFJ condemned the decision and sounded the alarm on Israel’s growing clampdown on journalists and Media, over coverage of the war in Gaza.

IFJ General Secretary Antony Bellanger said: “The prime minister’s intention to ban Al Jazeera will be a serious blow to media pluralism and the public’s right to know.

We urge the Israeli government not to close the Jerusalem bureau of Al Jazeera or any foreign media in Israel, and to stop using ‘national security’ as an excuse to censor critical media.

“The actions of the Israeli government are unfitting of a democracy.”

M M Alam

M. M. Alam is a Pakistan-based working journalist since 1981. Karachi University faculty gold medalist Alam began his career four decades ago by writing for Dawn, Pakistan’s highest circulating English daily. He has worked for region’s leading publications, global aviation periodicals including Rotors (of USA) and vetted New York Times as permanent employee of daily Express Tribune. Alam regularly covers international aviation and defense-related events including Salon Du Bourget (France), Farnborough (United Kingdom), Dubai (UAE). Alam has reported thousands of events and interviewed hundreds of people in Pakistan, UAE, EU, UK and USA. Being Francophone Alam also coordinates with a number of French publications.