Israel closes Al Jazeera news network in the country

May 5, 2024, 3:00 PM | Updated: May 15, 2024, 10:29 am

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major American ...

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Jerusalem on February 18. (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters via CNN Newsource)

(Ronen Zvulun/Reuters via CNN Newsource)

Originally Published: 05 MAY 24 06:34 ET
Updated: 05 MAY 24 16:18 ET

(CNN) — Israel has ordered the closure of Al Jazeera in the country, a move the Qatar-based news network called a “criminal act.”

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a post on X: “The government headed by me unanimously decided: the incitement channel Al Jazeera will be closed in Israel.”

Ofir Gendelman, the prime minister’s spokesperson to the Arab world, said Sunday that the decision would be “implemented immediately.”

In a post on X, Gendelman said that the network’s “broadcast equipment will be confiscated, the channel’s correspondents will be prevented from working, the channel will be removed from cable and satellite television companies and Al Jazeera’s websites will be blocked on the Internet.”

The Israeli Ministry of Communications said Sunday it had closed the network’s Jerusalem offices, and confiscated its communication equipment. “In addition, the network’s broadcasts on cable and satellite were stopped, and access to its websites was blocked,” the ministry said.

Israeli cable providers ceased carrying the Al Jazeera networks by late Sunday afternoon, CNN journalists in the country confirmed. Al Jazeera’s cable channel in Israel now displays a message stating, “In accordance with the government’s decision, Al Jazeera channel broadcasts were stopped in Israel.”

Gendelman quoted Netanyahu as saying: “Al Jazeera reporters harmed Israel’s security and incited against IDF soldiers. It is time to expel the mouthpiece of Hamas from our country.”

Video obtained by CNN showed Israeli police accompanied by agents of the Israel Security Agency entering Al Jazeera’s broadcasting position in Jerusalem on Sunday.

Al Jazeera said the Israeli cabinet’s decision infringed on the human right to access information.

It continued: “Israel’s suppression of the free press to cover up its crimes by killing and arresting journalists did not deter us from performing our duty. More than 140 Palestinian journalists have been martyred for the sake of the truth since the beginning of the war on Gaza.”

Several of the network’s journalists working in Gaza have been injured or killed since October 7.

Al Jazeera again denied Israel’s “false allegations regarding our violation of the professional frameworks governing media work,” and called on media and human rights organizations “to condemn the Israeli authorities’ repeated attacks on the press and journalists.”

The move comes a month after Netanyahu vowed to shut down the television channel in the country following the passage of a sweeping law allowing the government to ban foreign networks perceived as posing a threat to national security.

Netanyahu said on X in early April that he intended “to act immediately in accordance with the new law” to stop the outlet’s activity in the country. Netanyahu’s government has long complained about Al Jazeera’s operations, alleging anti-Israeli bias.

The new law gave the prime minister and communications minister authority to order the temporary closure of foreign networks operating in Israel – powers that rights groups say could have far-reaching implications on international media coverage of the war in Gaza.

UN Secretary-General spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric on Sunday condemned the closure of Al Jazeera. “As we have said before, we stand firmly against any decision to roll back freedom of the press. A free press provides an invaluable service to ensure that the public is informed and engaged,” Dujarric said.

The Foreign Press Association (FPA) in Israel described the move as “a dark day for democracy” and “a cause for concern for all supporters of a free press,” while the Committee to Protect Journalists said it “sets an extremely alarming precedent for restricting international media outlets working in Israel.”

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch condemned the decision as an “assault on freedom of the press,” according to a written statement shared by Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch’s Israel, and Palestine Director (HRW) on Sunday.

“Rather than trying to silence reporting on its atrocities in Gaza, the Israeli government should stop committing them,” Shakir said.

The move comes as negotiators met in Cairo on Saturday, in a bid to secure a ceasefire and hostage deal.

Negotiators have made progress on the technical aspects of a potential deal, but two Israeli sources say it could take a week to finalize the deal itself. Qatar has played a key role in ceasefire negotiations in the on-going war.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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Israel closes Al Jazeera news network in the country