The head of the Government Press Office, Nitzan Chen, moved to revoke the press card of Al Jazeera’s senior correspondent in Jerusalem, Elias Karram, pending a hearing. In a statement, the GPO attributed the decision to an interview Karram gave over a year ago to a television station identified with the Muslim Brotherhood, in which he said that his journalistic work was part of his contribution to Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation. The GPO admitted that it received the “evidence” against Karam from the Prime Minister’s Office and from Communications Minister Ayoub Kara. “Let him broadcast from Ramallah, not from us,” Minister Kara told Walla in an interview, leaving no doubt what he expected of the GPO.
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This step is part of the war the new communications minister, directed by the prime minister, is waging against the biggest and most important Arabic network in the world. Karram’s credentials are being revoked more than a year after his “incriminating” interview was published. Israel thus joined Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in the fight against the Qatar-based network.
Karram is an Israeli citizen. Revoking his press card is mainly a declarative step, lacing any practical meaning other than harassment. Despite this, one should not take lightly Chen’s intentions of trying to scare and to silence anyone who criticizes Israel. Today it’s Al Jazeera, tomorrow it’s other international networks. Today it’s the foreign press, tomorrow the Israeli media.
Israel need not like everything Al Jazeera broadcasts to let it operate freely. Karram is a journalist whose worldview dictates that his work is part of his people’s national struggle. As long as he is not breaking the law, it is his full right. There are many Israeli journalists on both sides of the political spectrum, who dedicate their journalistic work to the struggle of ideas, including opposition to the occupation, or, more gravely, to supporting the occupation and illegal settlement. It is not the job of the GPO and the communications minister to examine journalists with a magnifying glass to determine if they are acting in accordance to what the government considers the right political view. Nor is it the GPO’s job to offer a parochial interpretation of the rules of journalistic ethics and to rule on the universal fairness of a news report in line with the worldview of the right-wing government.
Levying sanctions against journalists constitutes an assault on the democratic principles of journalist freedom and freedom of expression. Not only the professional fate of Karram, or even Al Jazeera, is at stake but also journalistic freedom in Israel, which the government, through its press office, is trying to undermine.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.