Israel plans to shut Al Jazeera operations
7/8/17; Ori Lewis – AAP
Israel plans to revoke the media credentials of Al Jazeera TV journalists working in the country.
Israel is planning to revoke the media credentials of Al Jazeera TV journalists, close its Jerusalem bureau and pull the Qatar-based station’s broadcasts from local cable and satellite providers, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara has announced.
But the closure doesn’t appear imminent and an Israeli official says a legal process is required to implement most of the proposed steps.
The move by Israel adds further pressure on Qatar, which has been involved in a dispute with four of its Arab neighbours.
The measures are intended to bolster Israel’s security and “to bring a situation that channels based in Israel will report objectively”, Kara said.
Al Jazeera says Kara’s comments are unsubstantiated and it will take legal action is Israel acts on its threat.
Journalists working for the pan-Arab station in Israel weren’t expecting imminent moves against them.
“Al Jazeera Media Network denounces this decision, which comes in the context of a campaign that was initiated by a statement made earlier by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu…” Al Jazeera said in a statement late on Sunday.
Last month, Netanyahu said he would work on shutting down the network’s offices in Israel, accusing it of inciting violence in Jerusalem, including over an Old City site that is holy to both Muslims and Jews.
Kara said he will seek to have the accreditation of Al Jazeera’s around 30 journalists in Israel revoked. Cable and satellite providers have expressed their willingness to turn off its broadcasts, he said.
Kara added that he had asked Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan to use his powers to close the station’s offices in Israel, although a spokesman for Erdan said he doubted the minister had the authority to do so.
“Our ministry is not the address. Try the police,” spokesman Daniel Bar said.
Asked if shutting down Al Jazeera’s operations would make Israel appear to oppose freedom of the press, an official close to the prime minister said the country accepted diverse opinions but not incitement.
“The prime minister is not too pleased with the constant incitement that you see and hear on Al Jazeera, a lot of it in Arabic. There is a lot being broadcast on that channel that is frankly dangerous,” the official said.
“There is no shortage of free speech in this country. There are plenty of dissenting voices. In democratic countries there are also things that are unacceptable, and a lot of what Al Jazeera is saying and broadcasting falls into that category.”
In his news conference, to which Al Jazeera was not invited, Kara said steps had to be taken against “media, which has been determined by almost all Arab countries to actually be a supporter of terror, and we know this for certain.”
“We have identified media outlets that do not serve freedom of speech but endanger the security of Israel’s citizens, and the main instrument has been Al Jazeera,” Kara said.
He was referring to recent violence in and around a Jerusalem site that is revered by Muslims and Jews in which six Palestinians and five Israelis, including two policemen, were killed.
Al Jazeera said in July that Israel was aligning itself with four Arab states – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain – that have severed diplomatic and commercial ties with Qatar.
The Foreign Press Association in Israel criticised the planned moves.