World Media

Israel's Al-Jazeera move sends 'chilling message'

Israel's Al-Jazeera move sends 'chilling message'

Israel has long boasted of being a bastion of press freedom in the Middle East and pointed to Al Jazeera's presence in Jerusalem as proof.

The sharp criticism came a day after Ayoub Kara, Israel's communications minister, proposed closing Al Jazeera's office in Jerusalem, revoking press credentials of the network's Arabic and English journalists there and shutting down Al Jazeera's cable and satellite transmissions.

Israel is following the footsteps of four of its Arab neighbours - Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain - which have aligned against Qatar over its alleged extremism links.

Al Jazeera "will continue covering news and events in the occupied Palestinian territories in a professional and objective manner in accordance with the common journalistic standards set by the relevant worldwide organizations", the Doha-based television said.

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"Al Jazeera denounces this decision made by a state that claims to be 'the only democratic state in the Middle East, '" the network said in a statement, adding that Kara's reasons used to justify such a move were "odd and biased".

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly called for Al Jazeera's closure. Netanyahu was forced into a humiliating retreat, and the Israeli public thinks he should have had better sense in the first place.

The Qatar-based Al Jazeera television vowed to continue its coverage of developments in the occupied Palestinian territories despite Israeli attempts to close its offices in Jerusalem.

"After protests and deadly unrest", Al Jazeera reported, Palestinians celebrated when the "newly installed railings, gates, and scaffolding where cameras were previously mounted were removed from the entrance to the compound".

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Last week, Al Jazeera's Jerusalem Bureau Chief Walid Omary wrote in Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz that such a move would be "a massive step backwards". If this is not possible because of legal interpretation, I am going to seek to have the necessary legislation adopted to expel Al Jazeera from Israel'.

LeVine also warned of what the efforts to oust Al Jazeera could mean for the Israel's future plans, considering that "among mainstream or major media outlets, few have been as successful and focused on placing the realities of the occupation before the court of world opinion as Al Jazeera".

Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza, condemned Israel's plans.

"The timing of the communication minister's announcement suggests that this threat is more about signalling to Netanyahu's political base than a concrete move to limit Al Jazeera's operations at this stage", said Shakir.

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The Committee to Protect Journalists says Israel should not try to censor Qatari-based broadcaster Al Jazeera (the network's US operation discontinued broadcasts late last year).


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