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Israel bans, raids Al Jazeera as Hamas returns to Doha following ceasefire talks

In World
May 05, 2024
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Israel’s main cable provider stopped broadcasting Al Jazeera on Sunday, after the government voted to ban the Qatar-owned news outlet on national security grounds, ordering it to cease operations in the country immediately.

The network decried the decision as a “criminal act,” and “suppression of the free press.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the outlet a “Hamas mouthpiece,” and accused it of “incitement” and an anti-Israeli bias.

It follows the passage of a sweeping law earlier this year that allows the government to temporarily shut down foreign news networks on national security grounds, prompting concern from international human rights and press advocacy organizations.

Israel has ordered Al Jazeera to close its offices in Israel and police reportedly raided an office space used by the network and confiscated equipment shortly after the ban went into effect. The Al Jazeera website was still accessible in Israel on Sunday, according to the Associated Press.

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‘Dark day’ for media, press association says

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Sources:  Foreign Press Association, AP, CNN

The Foreign Press Association said it was a “dark day for the media,” and that Israel “joins a dubious club of authoritarian governments to ban [Al Jazeera].” Israel has had a tense relationship with Al Jazeera for years, in part because it is funded by the Qatari state, a key mediator in truce talks between Israel and Hamas and the temporary home of the latter’s political operation. In 2022, an Al Jazeera reporter, Shireen Abu Akleh, was killed by Israeli fire, and since the Israel-Hamas war began several Al Jazeera journalists have been injured or killed by Israeli strikes, according to the outlet. Al Jazeera has had a rare on-the-ground vantage point on the crisis, as most other global news outlets have been unable to report from Gaza.

Foreign media law faces court challenge

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Source:  The Jerusalem Post

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has challenged the law that enabled Israel’s Al Jazeera ban. They argue that Al Jazeera’s “pro-Palestinian” slant isn’t sufficient cause to block it. The network routinely includes the perspectives of Israeli Arabs and people in Arab countries who are also quoted by Israeli media, the group argued. While some Al Jazeera content could be considered “incitement” against Israel, the ACRI argued, it was no worse than Israeli media’s incitement against Palestinians, The Jerusalem Post reported. A court is set to rule on the legal challenge after May 15.

Banning Al Jazeera could jeopardize ceasefire talks

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Sources:  The Guardian, The Times of Israel, BBC

The ban, coupled with newly reported Israeli and Hamas strikes in Gaza and on the border with Egypt, could imperil the latest ceasefire negotiations. A Hamas delegation was in Cairo for talks Saturday and will reportedly return on Tuesday, according to Egyptian state media, raising some hopes for a deal. However an Israeli official told The Times of Israel the talks were “near collapse” and other officials downplayed any hint of progress. Meanwhile, the US CIA chief Bill Burns was on his way to Doha for an emergency meeting with the Qatari prime minister. Israel also closed the main corridor for aid into Gaza after reporting Hamas strikes on the Kerem Shalom crossing.

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