Al Jazeera Slams Israel’s Move to Ban Network: These Are Actions of Only Democracy in Mideast?

Israel's claims are 'odd and biased,' says Al Jazeera, threatening legal action

Al Jazeera staff work at their TV station in Doha, Qatar, June 8, 2017
Al Jazeera staff work at their TV station in Doha, Qatar, June 8, 2017 Malak Harb/AP

Al Jazeera denounced on Monday Israel's decision to close the Jerusalem bureau of Qatar's flagship satellite network, saying that the measure "undermines" Israeli claims to be the Middle East's sole democracy and that it will take legal action.

On Sunday, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara (Likud) announced Israel would revoke the press credentials of Al Jazeera journalists, effectively preventing them from working in the country, in addition to shutting down their Jerusalem bureau and preventing their broadcasting on Israel's satellite networks. His announcement came in response to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's call to remove the media network from the Jewish state based on claims that it incites violence against Israel.

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Al Jazeera challenged Kara's claims in their statement: "During the press conference, the minister 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." It also judged "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 (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, and Jordan) that have closed the network's bureaus, shut down its cable and satellite transmissions, and blocked its websites and applications."

"Al Jazeera denounces this decision made by a state that claims to be "the only democratic state in the Middle East," the statement says. The network also warned that "it will closely watch the developments that may result from the Israeli decision and will take the necessary legal measures towards it.

The statement concludes: "Al Jazeera will continue to cover the events of the occupied Palestinian territories professionally and accurately, according to the standards set by international agencies, such as the UK Office of Communications (Ofcom)."

The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists also condemned the Israeli decision. In a statement it released on Sunday, the committee wrote that the country should "abandon efforts" to end the broadcaster's operations in Israel. "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," CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said. "Israel should abandon these undemocratic plans and allow Al Jazeera and all journalists to report freely from the country and areas it occupies."

A Palestinian barber gives a customer a haircut as a TV set shows a demonstration in Egypt, on the Al Jazeera channel, at a barber shop in Jerusalem's Old city on May 4, 2011.
Sebastian Scheiner/AP