An Israeli official (left) seizes AP video equipment in Sderot on May 21, 2024. AP video equipment (right) is laid on the floor shortly before it was seized. (Photos: AP/Josphat Kasire)

Israeli authorities confiscate AP equipment broadcasting live feed of Gaza

Update: AP reported that Israeli authorities said they would return the equipment after widespread backlash from press freedom advocates and a White House request. The live feed was restored Wednesday morning.

Beirut, May 21, 2024 — Israeli authorities must return the equipment they confiscated from The Associated Press in southern Israel and stop harassing and censoring journalists covering the war, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

On Tuesday, May 21, Israeli Ministry of Communication officials seized a camera and broadcasting equipment belonging to the global news service in the southern town of Sderot, alleging that the agency had violated the country’s new foreign broadcaster law by providing images to Qatari satellite channel Al Jazeera. The feed was broadcasting a general view of northern Gaza.

AP issued a Tuesday statement denouncing the move, saying it “complies with Israel’s military censorship rules, which prohibit broadcasts of details like troops movements that could endanger soldiers. The live shot has generally shown smoke rising over the territory.” AP said Al Jazeera is among thousands of clients that receive live AP video feeds.

On May 5, Israel shut down Al Jazeera operations in the country. This was the first use of the new media law, which allows Israeli authorities to ban a foreign channel’s broadcasts if the content is deemed to be a threat to the country’s security during the ongoing war. 

“CPJ is deeply disturbed by Israeli authority’s seizure of broadcasting equipment used by The Associated Press, an international news outlet providing crucial coverage of the ongoing Israel-Gaza war,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna, in New York. “Israel started its media silencing campaign by banning Al Jazeera and is now using that as an excuse to obstruct AP. Israel must end this censorship campaign, return AP’s equipment, and allow all international media outlets — including Al Jazeera — to operate freely in the country.”

AP said the seizure followed a verbal order Thursday to cease the live transmission, which it refused.

CPJ emailed Netanel Weiss, senior coordinator for inquiries and public relations at the Ministry of Communications, for comment but did not immediately receive any response.