Netanyahu vows to ban Al Jazeera after Israel passes law

Legislation allows the news channel's offices in Israel to be closed

Protesters hold signs and flags calling for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's to be removed at a demonstration in Jerusalem, April 1, 2024.  Reuters
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The Israeli parliament passed a bill on Monday that gives ministers the authority to ban Al Jazeera from broadcasting in the country, a move which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to put into effect.

The law, which passed by 70 votes to 10, allows the government to shut down foreign channels and gives senior ministers the power to close the offices of foreign broadcasters in Israel.

Mr Netanyahu had said he would take “immediate action” to shut down Al Jazeera in Israel once the law passes.

Mr Netanyahu's Likud party said he asked “to make sure that the law to close Al Jazeera will be approved this evening” in Israel's parliament, the Knesset.

“The terrorist channel Al Jazeera will no longer broadcast from Israel. I intend to act immediately in accordance with the new law to stop the channel's activities,” Mr Netanyahu said in a post on X after the law was passed.

The bill, which allows officials to ban foreign media that is deemed to be harmful to national security, had already passed its first parliamentary hurdle last month.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called the move "concerning".

"We believe in the freedom of the press, it is critical. It is critically important and the United States supports the critically important work of journalists around the world,” she told reporters.

The US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the Biden administration has "not always agreed with" Al Jazeera's coverage, but highlighted its vital work in Gaza.

“Much of what we know about what has happened in Gaza is because of reporters who are there doing their jobs, including reporters from Al Jazeera," Mr Miller said.

Israel had claimed in January that an Al Jazeera staff journalist and a freelancer killed in an air strike in Gaza were “terror operatives”.

The following month it said another journalist for the channel, wounded in a separate strike, was a “deputy company commander” with Hamas.

Al Jazeera has fiercely denied the accusations and accused Israel of systematically targeting Al Jazeera employees in the besieged enclave where Israeli forces have been fighting Hamas since October.

Al Jazeera cameraman Samer Abu Daqqa was killed in an Israeli strike on Gaza in December. The attack also wounded the channel's bureau chief in the enclave, Wael Al Dahdouh, whose wife and two children were killed in an Israeli strike in October.

His son Hamza Dahdouh, who was also an Al Jazeera journalist, was killed in another strike in January.

Since the war began, 90 Palestinian journalists have been killed and 16 more have been arrested, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. More than 32,800 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in almost six months of war, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.

- With reporting from agencies

Updated: April 01, 2024, 6:23 PM