Israel will block media outlet Al Mayadeen but has indicated that it will refrain from shuttering Al Jazeera’s local bureau.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet said in a statement released on Monday that it had approved the decision to block the programming and websites of Lebanon-based, pro-Iranian channel Al Mayadeen. However, it made no mention of Al Jazeera, despite earlier threats to use emergency regulations to clamp down on its Palestinian offices.
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The cabinet statement said it would shutter Al Mayadeen due to its “wartime efforts to harm [Israel’s] security interests and to serve the enemy’s goals”.
Asked why Al Jazeera was not included in the Israeli security cabinet decision, the Ministry of Communications spokesperson said: “The security cabinet has not discussed that.”
Israel’s government passed wartime regulations allowing it to provisionally close foreign media it deemed a threat to its national interests in mid-October.
Israel’s Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi at the time said he hoped the measures would be used against Qatar-owned Al Jazeera, which is one of the few international media channels to broadcast live from Gaza during the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
The minister accused Al Jazeera of pro-Hamas bias and incitement against Israel.
Press freedom organisations denounced the calls to shutter Al Jazeera and other media.
“We are deeply concerned by Israeli officials’ threats to censor media coverage of the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict, using vague accusations of harming national morale,” said Sherif Mansour of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
“CPJ urges Israel not to ban Al Jazeera and to allow journalists to do their jobs,” Mansour said.
Israel’s security cabinet’s decision to withhold action on Al Jazeera reflects its complex balancing act with Doha, which it is counting on to help negotiate with Hamas to free some 220 hostages still in captivity in Gaza.
Israeli media have quoted unnamed Netanyahu government officials as saying the time was not right to restrict Al Jazeera.
However, other top officials, such as Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, have continued to publicly back a crackdown on the channel.
Israel has often lashed out at Al Jazeera, which has offices in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
In May 2022, Israeli forces shot dead senior Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh while she was covering an Israeli military raid in the West Bank town of Jenin.
A United Nations-commissioned report concluded that Israeli forces used “lethal force without justification” in the killing, violating her “right to life”.
Amid the war in Gaza, several of the channel’s journalists and their family members have died under Israel’s bombardment.
On October 25, an air raid killed the family of Gaza bureau chief Wael Dahdouh, including his wife, son, daughter, grandson, and at least eight other relatives.
Restrictions on Al Mayadeen
Following the Israeli security cabinet’s decision, Karhi was working with police on a proposed blocking of Al Mayadeen websites and seizure of equipment linked to the station, a ministry spokesperson said.
The minister also asked Israel’s military chief in the occupied West Bank to shut down Al Mayadeen offices there, the spokesperson said.
Al Mayadeen issued no immediate comment.
Though Israel and Lebanon are formally in a decades-old state of war and the Lebanese Shia Muslim group Hezbollah has joined the current hostilities on the side of Gaza’s Palestinians, Al Mayadeen has been airing reports from inside Israeli territory.