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Israel’s Shuttering of Al Jazeera Awaits Defense Minister Approval

Israel’s communications minister said a decision to shut down Al Jazeera’s local news bureau is now awaiting approval from the country’s defense minister.

“This issue is at the door of the defense minister. After his approval, which we are yet to receive, the request will be brought to the security Cabinet for approval,” said Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, according to The Times of Israel.

Karhi has previously referred to Al Jazeera as “a propaganda mouthpiece” for the militant group Hamas, which invaded southern Israel on October 7 and killed more than 1,400 people.

Karhi also has accused Al Jazeera of exposing Israeli soldiers to potential attacks from Gaza, telling Israel’s Army Radio, “This is a station that incites, this is a station that films troops in assembly areas [outside Gaza] … that incites against the citizens of Israel.”

In mid-October, the government approved emergency regulations that would permit it to temporarily shut down foreign news outlets, if it believed the outlets were harming national security.

“From our point of view, the orders are ready to remove [Al Jazeera] from [cable TV providers] Hot and Yes, to close [Al Jazeera] offices, to seize broadcast equipment from journalists, to revoke the government press passes, to withhold communications and internet services by Israeli companies [to Al Jazeera]. Everything is ready,” Karhi said, according to The Times of Israel.

Press freedom groups condemn restrictions

Press freedom groups have condemned the regulations and the potential shuttering of Al Jazeera in Israel.

“We are deeply concerned by Israeli officials’ threats to censor media coverage of the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict, using vague accusations of harming national morale,” Sherif Mansour, who covers the Middle East for the Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ, said in an October 18 statement.

“CPJ urges Israel not to ban Al Jazeera and to allow journalists to do their jobs. A plurality of media voices is essential in order to hold power to account, especially in times of war,” Mansour added.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken asked Qatar’s prime minister to curb Al Jazeera’s coverage of the conflict, Axios reported last week. Axios said Blinken was referring to Al Jazeera Arabic, not Al Jazeera English.

Al Jazeera is owned by the Qatari state but maintains editorial independence.

In response to the Axios report, U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said he could not speak about private diplomatic conversations.

“But you have heard me say from this podium that we would hope that everyone that talks about this war, everyone that covers this war, would use reliable sources of information,” Miller said at a press conference last week.

Dozens of journalists killed during conflict

The war between Israel and Hamas has been deadly for journalists — especially in Gaza, which the Israeli army has been bombarding nonstop since the Hamas incursion.

Israel has accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields to make it harder for the Israeli military to target high-ranking officials in the U.S.-designated terrorist group.

As of Wednesday, at least 33 journalists have been killed in the conflict, according to CPJ, including 28 Palestinians, four Israelis and one Lebanese.

On Tuesday, Reporters Without Borders filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court regarding alleged war crimes committed against journalists in the conflict.

The complaint covers eight Palestinian reporters killed in Israeli attacks in Gaza and one Israeli journalist who was killed October 7 while covering a Hamas attack on his kibbutz.

“The scale, seriousness and recurring nature of international crimes targeting journalists, particularly in Gaza, calls for a priority investigation by the ICC prosecutor,” the press freedom group’s secretary-general, Christophe Deloire, said in a statement.

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