Al Jazeera taken off air in Israel

9th May 2024
The move to shut down Al Jazeera television operations in Israel widely criticised as a further decline in press freedom during a conflict that has already taken a devastating toll on journalism.
Al Jazeera Network building in Doha, Qatar
DOHA, QATAR - JAN 7: Al Jazeera Network Support Services in Doha. January 7, 2012 in Doha, Qatar, Middle East. Credit: Philip Lange /

Al Jazeera’s local Israeli offices have been raided and shut down by authorities, following the passage of new laws by the Israeli war cabinet to close the satellite network’s operations in the country. A government statement said the communications minister had signed orders to act immediately to close the offices, confiscate broadcast equipment, cut the channel off from cable and satellite companies, and block its websites.  

In April, the Israeli parliament passed a law giving the government the power to close foreign broadcasters considered a threat to national security during its war against Hamas in Gaza.

Read more: “Your credibility is on the line”: MFC urged to take action to protect journalists in Gaza

The expulsion of the Qatari broadcaster by the Israeli government has strengthened concerns for the core democratic principles of press freedom in the country.  

More than 34,780 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched a military operation in October, in retaliation for a Hamas attack which killed about 1,200 people and saw 252 others taken hostage. Israel has come under growing pressure over its military conduct, with mounting civilian casualties and the UN reporting the territory is on the verge of famine with aid being restricted by Israel.  

No media organisations have been allowed into Gaza to report on the conflict independently. The only access to Gaza for other media has either been through highly controlled tours embedded with Israeli forces or through journalists that have been in Gaza since before the conflict. Al Jazeera staff have been some of the only reporters on the ground in Gaza during the conflict, although the Netanyahu government has long seen the network as holding an anti-Israel bias. 

“Al Jazeera harmed Israel’s security, actively participated in the October 7 massacre, and incited against Israeli soldiers,” Netanyahu wrote on X. The Qatar-based network rejected what it described as “slanderous accusations” and accused Netanyahu of “incitement.” 

“Al Jazeera reiterates that such slanderous accusations will not deter us from continuing our bold and professional coverage, and reserves the right to pursue every legal step,” the broadcaster said in a statement. A White House spokesperson said the move was “concerning.”  

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Several human rights and press groups, in both Israel and abroad, have condemned the move to close Al Jazeera. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel said they had filed a request to the Supreme Court to overturn the ban. It said the government’s claims were “unfounded,” and instead served “a more politically motivated agenda, aimed at silencing critical voices and targeting Arab media.”  

The Foreign Press Association called it “a dark day for democracy,” adding the shutdown was “a cause for concern for all supporters of a free press.” It warned that Netanyahu has the authority to target other foreign outlets that he considers to be “acting against the state.” 

The Committee to Protect Journalists said: “The Israeli cabinet must allow Al Jazeera and all international media outlets to operate freely in Israel, especially during wartime.” The organisation also said the local media community had been decimated by the war, which was making it harder to verify information about the toll on civilians. “As of May 6, at least 97 journalists and media workers had been killed in Gaza, Lebanon and Israel since October 7, 2023, the vasty majority (92) Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes. Others have been injured, fled into exile, and had their offices destroyed,” the CPJ said in another statement 

The UN’s Human Rights office posted on X, formerly Twitter: “A free & independent media is essential to ensuring transparency & accountability. Now, even more so given tight restrictions on reporting from Gaza.” 

The Public Media Alliance will continue to monitor the situation and the ability of journalists and news media to operate in the region.