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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 January 2021

Israel to ban Al Jazeera over fears the broadcaster incites violence

Press credentials of Al Jazeera journalists are to be revoked, effectively preventing them from working in Israel

An employee walks inside an office of Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network in Jerusalem
An employee walks inside an office of Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network in Jerusalem

Israel plans to ban Qatar's flagship Al Jazeera news network from operating in the country over allegations it incites violence, joining Arab nations that have shut down the broadcaster amid a separate political dispute.

Communications Minister Ayoob Kara said he plans to revoke the press credentials of Al Jazeera journalists, effectively preventing them from working in Israel.

Kara said he has asked cable and satellite networks to block Al Jazeera transmissions and is seeking legislation to ban them altogether.

The minister, a member of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party, gave no timetable for such measures.

Doha-based Al Jazeera did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Its Arab and English channels reported the news.

Walid Al Omari, the broadcaster's bureau chief in Jerusalem, said on air that his office has not been informed by Israeli officials of any possible measures the government might take.

Al Jazeera, a pan-Arab satellite network funded by the Qatari government, already has been targeted by Arab nations now isolating Qatar as part of a months-long political dispute over Doha's politics and alleged support for extremists.

Jordan and Saudi Arabia have recently closed Al Jazeera's local offices, while the channel and its affiliate sites have been blocked in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain.

Kara said: "Lately, almost all countries in our region determined that Al Jazeera supports terrorism, supports religious radicalization.

"And when we see that all these countries have determined as fact that Al Jazeera is a tool of the Islamic State [group], Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, and we are the only one who have not determined that then something delusional is happening here."

Israeli officials have long accused Al Jazeera of bias against the Jewish state. The Israeli defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has likened its coverage to "Nazi Germany-style" propaganda.

Nitzan Chen, director of the Government Press Office, said press credentials are not issued if security officials deem the cards would be "liable to endanger the security of the state".

He added: "Therefore, I have contacted the security echelon and have requested a professional opinion regarding the Al Jazeera network."

A decision will be made after receiving that opinion, he said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based advocacy group, criticised the Israeli proposal.

"Censoring Al Jazeera or closing its offices will not bring stability to the region, but it would put Israel firmly in the camp of some of the region's worst enemies of press freedom," said Sherif Mansour, the committee's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator.

"Israel should abandon these undemocratic plans and allow Al-Jazeera and all journalists to report freely from the country and areas it occupies."

American viewers became familiar with Al Jazeera after the attacks of September 11, 2001, when its golden-hued Arabic logo became synonymous with video messages by Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. That sparked frequent complaints by then-President George W Bush's administration. The station defended its policy, saying the messages were newsworthy.

Updated: August 6, 2017 09:28 PM

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