Wael al-Dahdouh

Al Jazeera correspondent Wael Dahdouh mourns his son Al Jazeera correspondent Wael Dahdouh mourns his son and another journalist killed by an Israeli airstrike on January 7, 2024 in Rafah, Gaza.

(Photo: Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images)

Israel Bans Al Jazeera in 'Assault on Freedom of the Press'

"Rather than trying to silence reporting on its atrocities in Gaza, the Israeli government should stop committing them," said one observer.

The Jerusalem offices of Al Jazeera were raided Sunday after Israel's far-right Cabinet banned the Qatar-based satellite news network—the sole international media outlet providing 24/7 live coverage from Gaza—from operating in the country.

"If you're watching this… then Al Jazeera has been banned in Israel," correspondent Imran Khan said in a pre-recorded report from occupied East Jerusalem preempting the Israeli Cabinet's unanimous vote to shutter the network.

The order—which does not affect Al Jazeera's ability to operate in Gaza or the illegally occupied Palestinian territories—is believed to be the first of its kind targeting a foreign media outlet operating in Israel. It comes after the Knesset, Israel's parliament, recently voted 71-10 in favor of a law empowering the Israeli communications minister to ban foreign news organizations from working in Israel and to confiscate their equipment.

"The time has come to eject Hamas' mouthpiece from our country," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised address.

Ofir Gendelman, Netanyahu's Arab media spokesperson, said Sunday that the closure would be "implemented immediately."

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."

In a statement, Al Jazeera vowed to "pursue all available legal channels through international legal institutions in its quest to protect both its rights and journalists, as well as the public's right to information."

"Israel's ongoing suppression of the free press, seen as an effort to conceal its actions in the Gaza Strip, stands in contravention of international and humanitarian law," the network added. "Israel's direct targeting and killing of journalists, arrests, intimidation, and threats will not deter Al Jazeera."

The New York-based Foreign Press Association issued a statement slamming the move and saying it "should be a cause for concern for all supporters of a free press."

"With this decision, Israel joins a dubious club of authoritarian governments to ban the station," the group said. "This is a dark day for the media. This is a dark day for democracy."

Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir called the order "an assault on freedom of the press."

"Rather than trying to silence reporting on its atrocities in Gaza, the Israeli government should stop committing them," he added.

Al Jazeera is the only international news network providing nonstop on-the-ground coverage of Israel's war on Gaza, often being the first to report Israeli atrocities in what many experts worldwide say is a genocidal campaign in the besieged, starving strip.

Its correspondents and other media professionals work under constant risk to life and limb. More than 100 journalists, the vast majority of them Palestinians, have been killed by Israeli forces since October 7 in what the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and others say are often intentional targetings of not only media workers but also their families.

In December, Israeli forces killedAl Jazeera cameraman Samer Abudaqa as he reported on the war in southern Gaza, an attack that also wounded Al Jazeera Gaza bureau chief Wael Dahdouh—whose wife, son, daughter, and grandson were killed in a separate Israeli strike.

Previous probes—like the investigation into Israeli troops' 2022 killing of renowned Palestinian American Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh—have confirmed that Israel has deliberately targeted journalists.

Last May, CPJ published Deadly Pattern, a report that found Israeli troops had killed at least 20 journalists over the past 22 years with utter impunity. While some of the slain journalists have been foreigners—including Italian Associated Press reporter Simone Camilli and British cameraman and filmmaker James Miller—the vast majority of victims have been Palestinian.

Israeli forces have also attacked newsrooms in every major assault on Gaza, including in May 2021 when the 11-story al-Jalaa Tower, which housed offices of Al Jazeera, The Associated Press, and other media outlets, was completely destroyed in an airstrike.

On Friday—World Press Freedom Day—Palestinian journalists covering the war on Gaza were awarded this year's UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize after being recommended by an international jury of media professionals.

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