The Israeli government has recently approved emergency regulations that will allow them to suspend the operations of foreign media outlets during times of conflict, including the closure of Al Jazeera’s office in Qatar. The Ministry of Communications in Israel stated that these new measures would enable them to halt the activities of any foreign broadcasting organizations that harm the security of the state for the duration of a war.
These changes were supported by the Mossad intelligence agency, the Shin Bet security service, and the Ministry of Defense. The Communications Minister, Shlomo Karhi, criticized Al Jazeera for what he deemed as incitement against Israel, assisting Hamas, ISIS, and other terrorist organizations with their propaganda, and encouraging violence against Israel. Karhi accused the Qatari network of spreading propaganda and contributing to the conflict.
The initiative, which must first be authorized by Israel’s Defense Minister and the Security Cabinet, empowers authorities to order TV providers to block the broadcasting of designated outlets, shut down their local offices, seize their equipment and restrict access to their websites.
If approved, these regulations will remain valid for 30 days and can be extended for the same period, as long as the state of emergency continues. While Al Jazeera has yet to respond to this development, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has expressed deep concern over the potential closure of the network’s office. The IFJ accused Israel of attempting to censor media coverage of the ongoing conflict and using national security as an excuse to restrict critical media that do not align with its narrative of the war.
Attempts to shut down Al Jazeera’s bureau in Israel have been ongoing since 2017 when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the outlet of incitement. Al Jazeera defended its coverage of events in the Palestinian-populated territories, asserting that it would continue to report professionally and accurately.
The decision to introduce these emergency regulations comes after Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel earlier this month, resulting in a significant number of casualties. In response, Israel launched attacks on the Palestinian enclave and imposed a complete blockade.
The move to potentially close Al Jazeera’s office has generated controversy and raised concerns about press freedom in Israel. Critics argue that this decision could hinder the ability of the media to provide unbiased and critical coverage of the conflict. It remains to be seen whether the closure of Al Jazeera’s office and the implementation of these regulations will be approved, as they still require authorization from Israel’s Defense Minister and the Security Cabinet.