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Benjamin Netanyahu said Al Jazeera’s offices are to be closed. PA

Israeli cabinet vote to shut down Al Jazeera in the country as UN urges govt to reconsider

Al Jazeera has deemed the move “a criminal act by Israel that violates the human right to access information”.

ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu has said that his government has voted unanimously to shut down the local offices of Qatar-owned broadcaster Al Jazeera.

Netanyahu announced the decision on X, formerly Twitter, saying: “My government decided unanimously: the incitement channel Al Jazeera will close in Israel.”

Details on the implications of the ban on the channel, when it would go into effect or whether the measure was permanent or temporary were not immediately clear. 

However, in a separate joint statement with Netanyahu, Israeli communications minister Shlomo Karhi said the station “will be closed immediately and the equipment will be confiscated.” 

Karhi issued an order to seize devices “used to deliver the channel’s content”, including editing and routing equipment, cameras, microphones, servers and laptops, as well as wireless transmission equipment and some cell phones.

In a statement shared on X in Arabic, Al Jazeera said:

We condemn and denounce this criminal act by Israel that violates the human right to access information.

An Al Jazeera correspondent on its Arabic service said the order would affect the broadcaster’s operations in Israel and in east Jerusalem, where it has been doing live shots for months since Hamas’s 7 October attack that sparked the current conflict in Gaza.

It would not affect Al Jazeera’s operations in the Palestinian territories, the correspondent said.

It comes after Israel’s parliament last month overwhelmingly passed a new national security law granting top ministers the power to ban broadcasts by foreign channels deemed a national security threat and to shut their offices.

According to Israeli media, today’s vote allows Israel to block the channel from operating in the country for 45 days, according to the decision.

Al Jazeera has vehemently denied that it incites against Israel.

UN ‘urge’ Israel to reconsider

The United Nations Human Rights Office has said it “regrets” the Israeli cabinet’s decision to close the channel. 

“A free and independent media is essential to ensuring transparency and accountability,” the office said in a statement on X.

“Now, even more so given tight restrictions on reporting from Gaza. Freedom of expression is a key human right. We urge govt to overturn ban.”

Hamas has deemed the decision “a “blatant violation of press freedom”. 

In a statement, the militant group said the decision to close the Qatar-based news channel was “a repressive and retaliatory measure against the professional role of Al Jazeera in exposing the crimes and violations” in Gaza, and “represents the culmination of the declared war against journalists … aimed at concealing the truth”.

The decision has escalated Israel’s long-running feud against Al Jazeera. It also threatens to heighten tensions with Qatar, which owns the channel, at a time when the Doha government is playing a key role in mediation efforts to halt the war in Gaza.

Israel has long had a rocky relationship with Al Jazeera, accusing it of bias against it and of collaborating with Hamas. 

Al Jazeera is one of the few international media outlets to remain in Gaza throughout the war, broadcasting bloody scenes of airstrikes and overcrowded hospitals and accusing Israel of massacres.

At least 97 journalists and media workers have been killed since the war began, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, marking “the deadliest period for journalists” since 1992 when the group began gathering data.

With reporting from Press Association and © AFP 2024

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