Reporters Without Borders decries Israeli decision to close Al Jazeera

Aug. 7, 2017 – Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges the Israeli authorities not to go ahead with their plan to shut down Al Jazeera’s operations, as it would amount to censorship of the Qatari TV news broadcaster and would reduce news media pluralism in Israel and the surrounding region.

The move was announced yesterday by Israeli communications minister Ayoub Kara, who said he intended to close Al Jazeera’s bureaus in Israel, revoke its journalists’ press passes and cut off its cable and satellite broadcast links in the country.

Israel has for years been accusing Al Jazeera of biased coverage of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

During last month’s clashes around the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu accused Al Jazeera of “continuing to stir violence” and said he wanted it removed from Israel.

At a press conference yesterday, the communications minister said almost all countries in the region, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, had concluded that “Al Jazeera supports terrorism” and that, under these circumstances, it was “ridiculous” that it continued to broadcast from Israel.

“What is ridiculous is that a country that boasts of being a democratic model for the regions falls into line with countries that are notorious enemies of media freedom,” RSF said. “Instead of taking advantage of the desire of certain Gulf states to censor Al Jazeera for purely political reasons, the Israeli authorities could instead set an example by defending media pluralism, which is essential.”

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and United Arab Emirates – the countries that have been demanding Al Jazeera’s closure as a condition for ending the unprecedented two-month- old regional diplomatic crisis – are ranked 168th, 164th, 161st and 119th respectively in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index. Israel is ranked 91st.