Al Jazeera says it will take legal action against Israel after Tel Aviv announced it will close the pan-Arab news network’s offices in the country.
The Qatar-based broadcaster issued a statement on Sunday evening deploring an announcement by Israeli Communications Minister Ayoub Kara that there would be a ban on the broadcaster in Israel and the occupied territories.
“Al Jazeera stresses that it will watch closely the developments that may result from the Israeli decision, and will take the necessary legal measures towards it,” the network said in a statement.
Joining the anti-Qatar bloc
It comes after a press conference headed by Ayoub – which Al Jazeera journalists were barred from – was held on Sunday, in which the communications minister announced his intention to censor the pan-Arab news network in Israel.
Ayoub said Al Jazeera’s bureau in Jerusalem would be closed, its transmissions barred, and the credentials of journalists revoked. No date was given for when the ban would be implemented.
The Israeli minister said his decision was due to Al Jazeera “inciting violence” through its reports during recent unrest in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
More bizarrely, Ayoub also used the testimony of anti-Qatar Arab states – such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan, Bahrain and Egypt – who have barred the broadcaster, accusing it of “supporting extremism”.
“Al Jazeera denounces this decision made by a state that claims to be ‘the only democratic state in the Middle East,'” the broadcaster said.
“It also finds the justifications made by the minister of communications as odd and biased as they are in unison with the actions carried out by a number of Arab countries that have closed the network’s bureaus, shut down its cable and satellite transmissions, and blocked its websites and applications.”
Order from the top
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Twitter that Ayoub was “following my instructions” to stop Al Jazeera’s “incitement”.
Netanyahu is a long-time critic of Al Jazeera.
He recently ramped up his rhetoric against the broadcaster during unrest centred on Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque following recent Israeli restrictions on Palestinian worshippers at the holy site.
“I have appealed to law enforcement agencies several times to close the Al Jazeera office in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu threatened at the time.
“If this is not possible because of legal interpretation, I am going to seek to have the necessary legislation adopted to expel Al Jazeera from Israel.”
Al Jazeera rejected Netanyahu’s claims of biased reporting during the unrest, saying their editorial standards conform to international norms such as those set by the British Broadcasting Code of Ofcom.
“Al Jazeera Media Network denounces [Ayoub’s] decision, which comes in the context of a campaign that was initiated by a statement made earlier by […] Netanyahu, in which he accused Al Jazeera of inciting violence during its coverage of the al-Aqsa Mosque,” the statement read.
“During the press conference, [Ayoub] could not substantiate his comments by referring to a single news bulletin or situation that proved Al Jazeera had not been professional nor objective during its coverage in Jerusalem.”
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