Gaza: Israel shuts down live broadcast of Associated Press news agency

Screenshot, The Associated Press camera was broadcasting from the Israeli city of Sderot, overlooking northern Gaza (file photo)

  • Author, David Gritten
  • Role, bbc news

The Associated Press says Israeli authorities confiscated a camera and broadcast equipment belonging to the US news agency in southern Israel, shutting down its live broadcast from Gaza.

AP Vice President Lauren Easton said she “condemns in the strongest terms the actions of the Israeli government.”

The White House expressed concern, while the Foreign Press Association said it was alarmed by “the latest in a series of chilling measures by the Israeli government to repress the media.”

Israel’s Communications Ministry said the equipment was seized because it violated a new media law by providing images for broadcasts on the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network, which it has banned.

Earlier this month, the ministry shut down Al Jazeera’s operations in Israel, accusing it of being a “mouthpiece for Hamas” and harming national security.

Al Jazeera rejected the accusation that this was the case and denounced the ban as a “criminal act” that violated human rights. It was also condemned by journalistic organizations as a blow to press freedom.

Al Jazeera has continued its operations in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, where foreign journalists have been banned since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas in October.

The officials “handed the AP a piece of paper, signed by Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, alleging that it was violating the country’s foreign broadcasting law,” he said, adding that the agency had rejected a verbal order to cease broadcasting. live last Thursday.

The agency emphasized that it complied with Israel’s military censorship rules, which prohibit the broadcast of details such as troop movements that could endanger soldiers.

However, the Communications Ministry accused the AP of broadcasting images of Gaza from the balcony of a house in Sderot that included “the activity of Israel Defense Forces combat soldiers and their location.”

“Although Ministry of Communications inspectors warned them that they were violating the law and that they should remove Al Jazeera as a recipient of their content and not transfer their transmission to Al Jazeera, they continued to do so,” a statement said.

“The law and directives do not distinguish between Al Jazeera itself and suppliers who transfer materials to (the news agency) from Israel.”

The AP report quoted Ms. Easton as saying that “the shutdown was not based on the content of the broadcast but rather on the Israeli government’s abuse of the country’s new foreign broadcasting law.”

“We urge the Israeli authorities to return our equipment and allow us to restore our live broadcast immediately so that we can continue providing this important visual journalism to thousands of media outlets around the world,” he added.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre described the report as “troubling” and said she believed journalists had the ability and right to do their jobs.

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid said the seizure of equipment from a major American media outlet was “an act of madness.”

The Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem warned that the seizure would prevent AP from providing crucial images from northern Gaza to hundreds of the agency’s clients around the world.

“Israel’s decision today is a slippery slope. Israel could prevent other international news agencies from providing live images from Gaza. It could also allow Israel to block media coverage of virtually any news event for vague security reasons,” he added.

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders accused Israel of “scandalous censorship.”

On May 9, inspectors from the Ministry of Communications raided a studio used by Al Jazeera in the northern Israeli city of Nazareth and confiscated a camera and other equipment.

It came four days after the ministry closed Al Jazeera’s offices in occupied East Jerusalem, halted the network’s broadcasts on Israeli cable and satellite companies and blocked access to its websites in Israel.

In April, the Israeli parliament passed a new media law that allows foreign networks considered a threat to national security to be “temporarily” banned for a period of 45 consecutive days, which could be renewed.