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A screenshot taken from AP video showing a general view of northern Gaza as seen from Southern Israel, before it was seized by Israeli officials. Alamy Stock Photo
Associated Press

Israel shuts down US news agency video feed of Gaza citing new foreign media law

The communications minister has since revoked the order following “concerns” from the United States.

ISRAELI OFFICIALS Shut down an Associated Press video feed of Gaza and confiscated recording equipment because one of the news outlets receiving the images was Al Jazeera, which was recently banned from Israel with the passing of a new media law. 

The camera had been shooting a general view of the Gaza Strip in Palestine from a vantage point in nearby Sderot, a town in Israel close to the border. 

AP, a news agency based in the United States, said its reporters were approached by Israeli officials, who handed them a letter from the Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi informing them they were breaking the law, which was passed on 5 May

AP described the video feed setup in Sderot as “longstanding” and decried the censorious move “in the strongest possible terms”.

Lauren Easton, vice president of corporate communications at the news organisation, said the shutdown was not based on the content of the feed but rather “an abusive use by the Israeli government” of the new foreign broadcaster law.

“We urge the Israeli authorities to return our equipment and enable us to reinstate our live feed immediately so we can continue to provide this important visual journalism to thousands of media outlets around the world,” she said.

AP said it had refused to comply with an order to stop broadcasting last Thursday.

in-this-image-from-video-israeli-officials-seize-ap-video-equipment-from-an-apartment-block-in-sderot-southern-israel-tuesday-may-21-2024-israeli-officials-seized-the-camera-and-broadcasting-equ Israeli officials seize AP video equipment from an apartment block in Sderot Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The communications ministry said in a statement that the AP regularly took images of the Gaza Strip from the balcony of a house in Sderot, “including focusing on the activities of IDF soldiers and their location”.

“Even though the inspectors of the Ministry of Communications warned them that they were breaking the law and that they should cut off Al Jazeera from receiving their content and not transfer a broadcast to Al Jazeera, they continued to do so.”

AP said it complies with Israeli censorship laws that prohibit filming troop positions and movements. 

Swift reversal 

The minister has since revoked the order given earlier today following “concerns” expressed by the US.

“I have now ordered to cancel the operation and return the equipment to the AP agency,” Karhi said in a statement after the White House had called on Israel to reverse the move.

“We’ve been engaging directly with the government of Israel to express our concerns over this action and to ask them to reverse it,” a White House spokesperson said.

ap-video-equipment-is-laid-on-the-floor-of-an-apartment-block-in-sderot-southern-israel-shortly-before-it-was-seized-by-israeli-officials-tuesday-may-21-2024-israeli-officials-seized-the-camera AP video equipment is laid on the floor of an apartment block in Sderot, Southern Israel, shortly before it was seized by Israeli officials. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

‘Act of madness’

Axios reporter Barak Ravid reported that the opposition leader Yair Lapid described the move as “an act of madness”. 

“The confiscation of the equipment of the AP, the world’s largest news agency, by minister of Communications Shlomo Karhi’s people, is an act of madness,” he said. 

“This is not Al Jazeera, this is an American media outlet that has won 53 Pulitzer Prizes. This government behaves as if it has decided to make sure at all costs that Israel will be a pariah all over the world. They went crazy.”

Reporters Without Borders denounced Israel’s decision, describing it as “outrageous censorship”.

“After banning Al Jazeera, Israel goes after AP. RSF denounces the seizure of a news agency’s camera and the shut down of a live feed showing a view of Gaza… this is outrageous censorship,” RSF said on X, formerly Twitter.

When the law passed in early May, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that it would ban the “incitement channel Al Jazeera”, which is based in Qatar. 

The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights denounced the passing of the law at the time, as did Al Jazeera. 

Israel has had a long and fraught relationship with Al Jazeera, one of the only news outlets that has been able to broadcast and report from Gaza during the Israeli assault on the territory, where foreign reporters are banned from entry. 

Israel’s siege, bombardment and invasion of Gaza has killed over 35,000 people, including 105 journalists since October, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. 

With reporting from AFP

Need more information on what is happening in Israel and Palestine? Check out our new FactCheck Knowledge Bank for essential reads and guides to navigating the news online.

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