Media watchdogs raise alarm over Al Jazeera ban, call for it to be lifted

 Media watchdogs have condemned Israel’s decision to block Al Jazeera, raising concerns about the erosion of media freedom in the country, especially amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists said the government’s decision set a dangerous precedent for other international media outlets operating in Israel.

“CPJ condemns the closure of Al Jazeera’s office in Israel and the blocking of the channel’s websites,” program director Carlos Martinez de la Serna said in New York.

Israel should allow Al Jazeera and all international media outlets to operate freely, particularly during wartime, he said.

Israel’s executive authority voted on Sunday to pass a law allowing the temporary shutdown of a foreign channel’s broadcasts if the content was deemed to be a threat to security during the ongoing war.

Soon after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the decision, reports emerged of raids on the offices of the Qatar-backed broadcaster.

The Foreign Press Association released a statement condemning the decision as a “dark day for the media” and accused Israel of joining “a dubious club of authoritarian governments” by banning the broadcasts.

The UN’s Human Rights office also urged the Israeli government to reverse the ban

“A free & independent media is essential to ensuring transparency & accountability. Now, even more so given tight restrictions on reporting from Gaza,” it said on X.

There has also been criticism of the decision from within the country, with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel filing a request to the Supreme Court to overturn the ban.

The news came amid a yearslong campaign waged against Al Jazeera by the Israeli government, which accuses it of anti-Israeli bias and “being a mouthpiece for Hamas.”

The broadcaster rejected the claims and said it would “pursue every legal step” to fight the decision.

Al Jazeera also vowed to continue its coverage from Gaza, as it remains one of the few networks with a strong presence on the ground, as foreign journalists are banned from entering the Strip without Israeli army supervision.

The network accused Israel of deliberately targeting its staff in an attempt to silence them.

“Israel’s suppression of free press to cover up its crimes by killing and arresting journalists has not deterred us from performing our duty,” it said in its response to Sunday’s ban.

Despite the ruling, the channel remains accessible through Facebook in Israel.

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