Beirut, July 27, 2017--Israeli authorities should immediately stop threatening to expel Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday wrote on Facebook that he would work to enact legislation allowing authorities to close Al-Jazeera's Jerusalem bureau and to expel the broadcaster from Israel, accusing the network of inciting viewers to violence in its coverage of protests last week, according to news reports.
Al-Jazeera "continues to stir violence around the Temple Mount," Reuters quoted Netanyahu as writing in Hebrew on his Facebook page. "I have spoken several times to law-enforcement authorities demanding [that they] close Al-Jazeera's office in Jerusalem. If this does not happen because of legal interpretation, I will work to enact the required legislation to expel Al-Jazeera from Israel."
"Prime Minister Netanyahu's threats to close Al-Jazeera's Jerusalem office or to rewrite the law to allow the broadcaster to be expelled smack of authoritarianism and are wholly inconsistent with the democratic image Israel wishes to project abroad," CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said from Washington, D.C. "Netanyahu should stop threatening the media and should respect all journalists' right to do their jobs without fear of retaliation."
The Israeli government's press office did not respond to CPJ's request for comment.
Al-Jazeera on July 21 broadcast video of an Israeli police officer kicking a Palestinian protester kneeling on a prayer mat during a July 21 protest over Israel's installation of metal detectors and security cameras in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque complex and published the video to its social media feeds, where thousands of viewers watched it.
Muhammad Ihtisham Hibatullah, Al-Jazeera's manager of international relations, sent CPJ a statement condemning the Israeli prime minister's accusations of incitement to violence.
Al-Jazeera has faced mounting pressure from regional governments in recent months. In late May 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain blocked access to Qatari-funded news websites, including Al-Jazeera's websites, according to press reports. Barely a week later, Saudi Arabia and Jordan withdrew Al-Jazeera's operating licenses, according to press reports. In late June, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt demanded that Qatar close Al-Jazeera and other media outlets it funds.