Israel backtracks on confiscation of AP camera equipment

JERUSALEM: Israeli authorities confiscated photographic equipment belonging to the Associated Press on Tuesday (May 21), before changing course amid widespread condemnation from media groups and criticism even from its closest ally, the United States.

Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said in a statement that he had ordered officials to cancel the original decision and return the confiscated equipment, pending a decision from the Defense Ministry, which he said wanted to examine the matter.

The Israeli Communications Ministry had previously accused the PA of violating the law by providing a live broadcast to Al Jazeera, which it had temporarily banned earlier this month, accusing it of endangering national security.

The agency said it was ordered to shut down a livestream showing a view of Gaza from the Israeli city of Sderot, saying this was not based on the content but on “an abusive use by the Israeli government of the new law of foreign radio broadcasting in the country”.

“The Associated Press condemns in the strongest terms the Israeli government’s actions in shutting down our long-running live broadcast showing a view of Gaza and confiscating AP equipment,” said AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton.

The media law, passed in April, allows the government to order foreign broadcasters to temporarily cease operations for national security reasons.