A picture of slain Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh hangs on the wall as a journalist works inside the outlet's office in Ramallah on May 9, 2023. CPJ urgently called on the Israeli government not to close the Jerusalem-based bureau of Al-Jazeera on April 1, 2024. (Photo: AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

CPJ urges Netanyahu government not to shut down Al-Jazeera in Israel

Washington, D.C., April 1, 2024—The Committee to Protect Journalists urgently calls on the Israeli government not to close the Jerusalem-based bureau of Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera and allow the media to report freely on news events in Israel and Gaza during the current conflict.

On Monday, Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, passed a law allowing the government to halt the broadcasting of Al-Jazeera in Israel. The law grants the communications minister the power, with approval from the prime minister and the security cabinet, to order the cessation of a foreign channel’s broadcasts in Israel if the prime minister is convinced that the content directly threatens the country’s security.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, that he would act immediately to stop Al-Jazeera broadcasting from Israel. In the tweet, Netanyahu labeled Al-Jazeera a “terrorist channel” and accused it of harming Israel’s security, actively participating in the October 7 massacre, and incitement against Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers.

These accusations were previously rejected by Al-Jazeera, which called them “an attempt to justify the killing and targeting of journalists.”

“CPJ is deeply concerned by new legislation authorizing the Netanyahu government to shutter Al-Jazeera in Israel,” said Carlos Martínez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in New York. “The law grants the government the power to close any foreign media outlets operating in Israel, posing a significant threat to international media within the country. This contributes to a climate of self-censorship and hostility toward the press, a trend that has escalated since the Israel-Gaza war began.”

Additionally, the law empowers the communications minister to order “content providers” to cease broadcasting, shutter their Israeli offices, confiscate their equipment, take their websites offline if the server is physically located in Israel, or otherwise block access to their websites.

Later on Monday, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre stated that if reports are true and Israel is attempting to shut down the news network Al-Jazeera within the country, it would be “concerning.”

On November 12, Israel’s security cabinet approved an order shutting down the Lebanon-based broadcaster and Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen TV in Israel.

Since the start of the October 7 war, Al-Jazeera journalists in Gaza have been killed, injured, threatened, and assaulted, and their family members were killed after receiving threats from IDF officers.

CPJ’s email requesting comment from the prime minister’s government press office did not receive an immediate response.

(Editor’s note: The seventh paragraph of this report has been updated to clarify the timing of the comment by the White House.)