Israel Set to Revoke Al Jazeera Journalist’s Press Permit

Elias Karram said in TV interview last year that he sees his work as part of his contribution to Palestinian resistance to the occupation

Al Jazeera correspondent Elias Karram

An Israeli Al Jazeera correspondent is set to have his press accreditation revoked by Israel after comments he made on another TV network last year.

Elias Karram’s state-issued press card will be canceled subject to a hearing, said Government Press Office head Nitzan Chen on Wednesday.

The GPO cited an interview Karram gave on a TV network identified with the Muslim Brotherhood, in which he said his journalistic work is part of his contribution to Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation.

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The Union of Journalists in Israel blasted the GOP's intention to revoke Karram's press permit, calling it an "intolerable move in a democracy."

Karram, who has Israeli citizenship and lives in Nazareth, has held a press card since 2011. The decision to cancel it is part of various sanctions the Israeli government is trying to institute against Al Jazeera – the Qatar-based station that has a local office in Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman to the Arab press, Ophir Gendelman, and Communications Minister Ayoub Kara were the source of the material on which the decision to cancel the press card was based, the GPO said.

Press cards in Israel are granted by the GPO.

The GPO said Karram gave the interview to TV network Dar al-Iman in May 2016, during which he said: “As a Palestinian journalist in an occupied territory, or conflict zone, journalistic work is an integral part of the resistance and political and educational work.

“The journalist fulfills his media role in the resistance by pen, voice or camera, because they are part of this people, and handles his opposition in his unique way,” he added.

Chen said Karram’s statements “render questionable his ability to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – in which he says he takes an active part – as a professional journalist and representative of a foreign network.”

At a hearing next week, Karram will be asked to explain whether he is part of the Palestinian people’s resistance to the Zionist occupation, as he allegedly said in the interview. If so, he will be asked how that tallies with his journalistic work, based on universal ethical rules.

“Everybody carrying a press card issued by the GPO must be committed to the rules of journalistic ethics and universal fairness on reporting news,” Chen said. “Ostensibly, it seems that an Al Jazeera reporter serving as a senior reporter in the field on news and security events went too far with his clear statement that ‘every Palestinian journalist should see himself as an integral part of the resistance to the occupation.’

“Anybody taking an active part in political struggle may do so in compliance with the law, but without a press card issued by the State of Israel,” Chen added.

"Journalists aren't only information conduits, they also act occasionally to advance an agenda in keeping with the public interest as they see it, subject to the Press Council's ethical code," the Union of Journalists in Israel said, "It is unthinkable for a state to hinder a journalist's ability to do his work solely because of the agenda he advances, as critical as he may be toward the state's behavior."

"The GPO isn't even claiming he incited or infringed on state security. Its planned move is not only harmful to Elias Karram but to the principles of freedom of expression and freedom of the press, and to journalists' ability to serve the public adequately," the union said in its response.

I'Lam, an Arab, Nazareth-based NGO for media freedom, development and research, also sent a sharp letter to GPO director Chen.

"We warn that if the GPO acts on the communications minister's request and revokes the press accreditation for Al Jazeera journalists, it would be a grave infringement on human dignity and freedom, the freedom of occupation, the freedom of the press, which is an inseparable part of the freedom of expression and the public's right to know, which are basic rights in Israeli and international law," I'Lam said in the letter.