On Sunday, Israel said it plans to ban Qatar's flagship Al-Jazeera Media Network from operating in the country over allegations that the news channel incites violence, joining other Arab nations that have shut down the broadcaster amid a separate political dispute. The news organisation, in turn, said it will take legal action.
Communications minister Ayoob Kara said he plans to revoke the press credentials of Al-Jazeera journalists, effectively preventing them from working in Israel.
Ayoob said he has asked cable and satellite networks to block Al-Jazeera transmissions and is seeking legislation to ban them altogether.
The minister, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party, gave no timetable for such measures.
The ban is no sure thing
According to a report in Haaretz, however, this ban is no sure thing as such a revocation is not within the purview of Ayoob or the press office and security agencies would need to recommend such a move. After that a hearing would be held.
Besides, Israel's cable companies have also given no public indication that they would go along with this move, according to the Haaretz report.
'Al-Jazeera supports terrorism'
"Lately, almost all countries in our region determined that Al-Jazeera supports terrorism, supports religious radicalisation," Ayoob said. "And when we see that all these countries have determined as fact that Al-Jazeera is a tool of the Islamic State (group), Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, and we are the only one who have not determined that then something delusional is happening here," he added.
Nitzan Chen, director of the Government Press Office, said press credentials are not issued if security officials deem the cards would be "liable to endanger the security of the state." He said "therefore, I have contacted the security echelon and have requested a professional opinion regarding the Al-Jazeera Media Network."
A decision will be made after receiving that opinion, he said.
Why Al-Jazeera is loathed in West Asia
Israeli officials have long accused the Qatar-based news channel of bias against the Jewish state. Defense minister Avigdor Lieberman has likened its coverage to "Nazi Germany-style" propaganda.
According to an NDTV report, the ruling elite in Saudi Arabia and Egypt resent the station's broad reach and its propensity to rile up the Opposition. They also have a strong dislike for the stations's "Islamist bent" and do not appreciate the fact that it is exposing the populace to reporting that is critical of their regime and which supports the agenda of Qatar.
"Al-Jazeera is sensationalist, Islamic, and pan-Arabic, but it mirrors Doha's policy concerns in more ways than it might care to acknowledge. Many Arab governments would prefer Al Jazeera to simply disappear," Simon Henderson, director of the Washington Institute's Gulf and Energy Policy Program, wrote four years after the station's launch, according to the report.
How it made its name
American viewers became familiar with Al-Jazeera after the attacks of 11 September, 2001, when its golden-hued Arabic logo became synonymous with video messages by Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. That sparked frequent complaints by then president George W Bush's administration. The station defended its policy, saying the messages were newsworthy.
Al-Jazeera was the first Arab satellite news channel to offer a range of views outside of heavily censored state media across the region and extensively covered the 2011 Arab Spring. It also was the first Arab-owned news outlet to host Israeli officials and commentators, which some analysts note coincided with Qatar's ties with Israel at the time.
Cause for concern
The Foreign Press Association, which represents journalists covering Israel and the Palestinian territories for international news organisations, said the move "is certainly a cause for concern." It said it will study the issue and decide how to proceed.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based advocacy group, criticized the Israeli proposal.
"Censoring Al-Jazeera or closing its offices will not bring stability to the region, but it would put Israel firmly in the camp of some of the region's worst enemies of press freedom," said Sherif Mansour, the committee's West Asia and North Africa program coordinator. "Israel should abandon these undemocratic plans and allow Al-Jazeera and all journalists to report freely from the country and areas it occupies."
Hamas condemns move
Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, condemned the move. "Al-Jazeera had a big role conveying the Palestinian narrative with a high professionalism," said Hazem Qassem, a Hamas spokesman.
Al-Jazeera on its English language website condemned the measures as "undemocratic" and said that it will take legal action.
It said it will continue operating in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Walid al-Omari, the broadcaster's bureau chief in Jerusalem, said on air that his office has not been informed by Israeli officials of any possible measures the government might take.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Aug 07, 2017 13:27:07 IST