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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Israeli Al Jazeera claim triggers move to ban foreign media

The Knesset has advanced a censorship bill prepared back in October

Israel has taken a step closer to banning Al Jazeera, after accusing a reporter for the Qatar-based network of working for Hamas.

The Israeli parliament voted 25-4 on Monday to advance a bill that would let West Jerusalem temporarily outlaw foreign media outlets the defense ministry designates as harmful to state security. It is colloquially known as the ‘Al Jazeera Law,’ in recognition of specifically targeting the outlet.

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The measure advanced shortly after an Israeli Defense Forces spokesman accused Al Jazeera reporter Mohamed Washah of being a terrorist.

“In the morning, he’s a journalist on the Al Jazeera channel, and in the evening, a terrorist in Hamas!” Lieutenant Colonel Avichay Adraee said on X (formerly Twitter), posting photos allegedly showing Washah wielding a variety of weapons.

The ‘Al Jazeera Law’ was drafted by Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi last year, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared war on Hamas in the aftermath of the Palestinian group’s deadly October 7 raid into Israel. Karhi argued that Al Jazeera’s reporting constitutes “incitement against Israel, help [for] Hamas-ISIS and the terror organizations with their propaganda, and encourage violence against Israel.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly asked the government of Qatar to have the network “turn down the volume” of its coverage of the Gaza conflict.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) reacted to the Knesset vote by accusing Israel of “using national security as an excuse to restrict critical media that do not confirm its narrative of the war,” and of attempting to censor media coverage of what was going on in Gaza.

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Two Al Jazeera employees were seriously injured in an Israeli airstrike in southern Gaza on Tuesday. According to the network, reporter Ismail Abu Omar had to have his leg amputated while cameraman Ahmed Matar suffered “critical injuries to his face.”

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller offered “sincere condolences” to the network and said the US “continue[s] to engage with the government of Israel to make clear that journalists ought to be protected.”

An estimated 1,200 Israelis died in the October 7 Hamas raids. Since then, Israeli forces have killed over 28,000 Palestinians in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run enclave’s health ministry.