What steps does Israel have to take to ban Al Jazeera?

The process to shut down Al Jazeera’s offices in Jerusalem is likely to be lengthy, lawyers say.

AJE newsroom Qatar
Staff work inside the headquarters of Al Jazeera Network in Doha, Qatar [Tamila Varshalomidze/Al Jazeera]

Shutting down Al Jazeera’s offices in Jerusalem will be a lengthy process and involves multiple offices and official bodies, lawyers have said.

Their estimates come a day after Ayoub Kara, Israel’s communications minister, vowed to ban Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem operations.

Kara repeated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s July 27 threat to shut down Al Jazeera over its coverage of last month’s protests at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

“Freedom of expression is not the freedom to incite and foment strife,” he said. “Even democracy has its limits.”

Kara used similar words to Netanyahu in his announcement, but upon closer inspection, there was a distinct lack of detail over what comes next.

“Revoking Al Jazeera’s journalists’ media credentials, shutting down its cable and satellite transmissions, and closing its local offices in the country are all measures that must overcome many legal barriers,” Fady Khoury, a lawyer with legal centre Adalah, told Al Jazeera.

READ MORE: Rights groups, reporters decry Israel ban on Al Jazeera

Kara called to revoke the press credentials of Al Jazeera journalists working in Israel.

However, the Government Press Office (GPO) which authorises these permits is not required to answer to the minister’s requests.

Instead, security agencies must make a recommendation to the GPO director based on whether the issuance of such documents is liable to endanger national security.

After the recommendation is heard, a hearing would take place to determine the outcome.

Blocking Al Jazeera

The second issue is blocking the Al Jazeera network from broadcasting through cable and satellite companies, which requires special legislation.

Although Kara said that he has contacted these companies to obstruct the transmission of Al Jazeera, there has been no public confirmation yet.

Further, the decision to take down or launch channels rests in the hands of the Council for Cable TV and Satellite Broadcasting which,, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz, say they have not been part of the process.

READ MORE: Al Jazeera statement on Israel’s plan to ban network

“Israel has no ability to restrict satellite transmission, as many Palestinian homes receive Al Jazeera broadcasts through private satellites that are not regulated by the state,” said Khoury, the lawyer.

Lastly, the closure of Al Jazeera’s offices has been a contentious subject between Kara and Gilad Erdan, the Israeli public security minister.

Kara appealed to Erdan to use his authority to close down the offices, but Erdan deflected the request to the police.

In turn, the police reportedly advised Erdan back to the communications ministry.

“The closing of Al Jazeera’s local offices can only be justified by a concrete threat to security, the substantiation of which is doubtful in this case,” Khoury said.

According to Omar Shakir, the Human Rights Watch director for Israel and Palestine, Kara’s announcement is seen more as an attempt to shore up support for the Israeli premier, who is currently under investigation for allegations of corruption.

“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.

Source: Al Jazeera