View of Gaza from southern Israel showing smoke rising from an Israeli attack

An Israel Defense Forces tank and soldiers are seen in this view of Gaza from southern Israel on May 15, 2024.

(Photo: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images)

AP and Free Press Defenders Blast Israeli Shutdown of Gaza Live Feed

One NGO called the move "yet another attempt by Israel to hide its war crimes against Palestinians."

The White House and press freedom advocates were among those who on Tuesday criticized the Israeli government's shutdown of The Associated Press' live video shot of northern Gaza for violating a new media law by providing access to the banned Al Jazeera network.

The APsaid Israeli authorities confiscated its camera and broadcasting equipment from a home in the southern Israeli city of Sderot. The live shot was broadcast from a balcony on the home.

"The Associated Press decries in the strongest terms the actions of the Israeli government to shut down our long-standing live feed showing a view into Gaza and seize AP equipment," said Lauren Easton, vice president of corporate communications at the New York-based news organization.

"The shutdown was not based on the content of the feed but rather an abusive use by the Israeli government of the country's new foreign broadcaster law," Easton added. "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."

The law to which Easton referred empowers the Israeli government to shut down the operations of foreign media outlets if they are deemed national security threats. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right Cabinet used the law to ban Qatar-based Al Jazeera—the sole international media outlet providing 24/7 live coverage from Gaza—from operating in Israel.

Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said the AP broke the foreign broadcaster law by providing the live feed to Al Jazeera, one of thousands of AP clients. Karhi accused the AP of "causing real harm to the security of the state."

"It should be noted that a warning was given to the AP agency already last week that according to the law and the government's decision they are prohibited from providing broadcasts to Al Jazeera, however they decided to continue broadcasting on the channel," Karhi said.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One en route to New Hampshire on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that U.S. President Joe Biden believes journalists should be free to do their jobs. Addressing Israel's shutdown of the AP live feed, Jean-Pierre said, "Obviously this is concerning and we want to look into it."

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) was one of several press freedom groups that condemned Israel's shutdown of the AP live feed.

"After having banned Al Jazeera, Israel is lashing out at the AP," RSF said in a statement. "RSF denounces the seizure of the news outlet's camera and the interruption of the continuous feed that films Gaza under the pretext that these images are supplying, among others, Al Jazeera."

The U.S. advocacy group Freedom of the Press Foundation said on social media that "Israel is now using its Al Jazeera ban as a pretext to seize equipment belonging to one of the world's largest news agencies, stripping millions of people of a view into Gaza at a time of war and mass atrocities."

Kenneth Roth, a visiting professor at Princeton University in New Jersey and former head of Human Rights Watch, said that "rather than stop the war crimes charged yesterday by the International Criminal Court, Israel tries to cover them up."

Roth was referring to Monday's decision by ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan to seek arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Ismail Haniyeh, and Mohammed Deif for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with the October 7 attacks on Israel and that country's genocidal retaliation—which has killed, wounded, or left missing more than 126,000 Palestinians, according to Gazan and international officials.

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 and others say are often intentional targetings of not only media workers but also their families. Previous investigations—including the probe of Israeli troops' 2022 killing of Palestinian American Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh—have confirmed that Israel has deliberately targeted journalists.

Israeli forces have also attacked newsrooms during every major Gaza war, including in May 2021 when the 11-story al-Jalaa Tower—which housed offices of Al Jazeera, AP, and other media outlets—was leveled in an airstrike.

Even Yair Lapid, who leads Israel's political opposition and is a former journalist, called the AP shutdown "an act of madness."

"This is an American media outlet that has won 53 Pulitzer Prizes," Lapid said in a statement. "This government behaves as if it has decided to make sure at any cost that Israel will be outcast all over the world. They went mad."

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