Protect Independent Journalism in Israel-Palestine

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Recently, the Israeli government announced its intention to close down Al Jazeera news network in Israel. It plans to revoke the media credentials of all Al Jazeera television journalists in both the Arabic and English channels, close the network's office, and block its local cable and satellite transmissions. Al Jazeera is the primary news source for Palestinian citizens of Israel, who comprise approximately 20% of the population.

Israel has an appalling record of attacking members of the press, imprisoning Palestinian journalists and human rights activists without charge, and even sponsoring legal challenges to the right to academic freedom in other countries, including Australia. An independent press is vital for the struggle for Palestinian human rights. The small but growing call for freedom, justice and equality for all, even among Jewish Israelis, is a threat that Netanyahu must silence at all cost.

Israel's Communications Minister claimed that "almost all Arab countries in our region determined that Al Jazeera supports terrorism, supports religious radicalisation, [and] is a tool of the Islamic State, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran". This is blatantly untrue. Aside from four autocratic Sunni states, all states in the region allow Al Jazeera to broadcast. 

Al Jazeera denied the accusations, and said it "will continue to cover the events of the Occupied Palestinian Territories professionally and accurately, according to the standards set by international agencies." Ironically, it is the first and only Arab media outlet to regularly air interviews with Israelis, including Israeli politicians.

Nevertheless, Netanyahu seeks to emulate the dictators of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the Gulf States. He has plenty of reasons to seek to muzzle the press. His recent attempt to change the status quo in the Noble Sanctuary-Temple Mount in Occupied East Jerusalem (against the advice of Israeli security authorities) was defeated by Palestinian nonviolent resistance, and he is under investigation for alleged fraud. Furthermore, independent media have been instrumental in exposing Israel's abuses of human rights and international law.

The plan has drawn extensive condemnation both inside Israel and from press organisations around the world, including Israel's Foreign Press Association, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, and the London-based Ethical Journalism Network, whose director, Aidan White, called it "a full frontal attack" on press freedom that "completely undermines Israel's claims to be the only democracy in the region [and is] an attack on all critical independent journalism".

Please speak out against this flagrant attempt by Israel to exclude independent media coverage of events in Israel-Palestine.



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