Sat, 02 Dec 2023

Under Emergency Measures, Israel Shutters Lebanese News Outlet

Voice of America
16 Nov 2023, 09:36 GMT+10

Israel this week used newly enacted emergency measures to shutter a Lebanon-based media outlet over claims it harms national security.

The Israeli security cabinet on Sunday voted to block access to Al Mayadeen's satellite news in Israel for 'making wartime efforts to harm [Israel's] security interests and to serve the enemy's goals,' according to a statement from the cabinet.

The vote is the first time Israel has used the emergency measures passed last month that allow the government to temporarily close news outlets it perceives as harming national security.

Following the vote, Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi started to work with police on a proposed blocking of Al Mayadeen websites and seizure of equipment linked to the station, according to a communications ministry spokesperson.

The spokesperson added that Karhi has asked the Israeli military chief in the West Bank to shut down Al Mayadeen offices there.

'Broadcasts such as these identify with the enemy while harming state security and will be blocked. Al Mayadeen's broadcasts and reports serve the despicable terrorist organizations, and the time has come for a reckoning with them,' Karhi said in announcing the closure.

Some outlets like the Times of Israel characterize the outlet as pro-Hezbollah. Others, like Reuters, characterize it as pro-Iranian.

Al Mayadeen, which describes itself as an independent Arab media satellite channel, did not immediately reply to VOA's email requesting comment.

'An attempt to censor'

The International Federation of Journalists, or IFJ, last month criticized the emergency regulation as 'an attempt to censor' coverage of the war 'using national security as an excuse to restrict critical media.'

On Tuesday, the IFJ described the Al Mayadeen ban as 'a serious blow on media pluralism and the public's right to know.'

When Israel first proposed the media regulations, officials said the government was taking steps to shutter the Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera.

In an interview with Israel's Army Radio one week after the October 7 terror attack on Israel, Karhi accused Al Jazeera of being 'a propaganda mouthpiece' for Hamas and exposing Israeli soldiers to attacks.

The Israel government has been angered over Qatar's ties to Iran and Hamas, but Israel is also looking to Qatar to help push Hamas to release the more than 200 hostages still being held in Gaza, according to Reuters.

When asked why the cabinet did not also order Al Jazeera to be blocked, the Communications Ministry spokesperson said it had not been discussed.

The October 20 regulations allow the communications minister - with the approval of the defense minister and security cabinet - to close foreign media outlets during the current state of emergency.

A district court must uphold or deny the order within three days. The order is valid for 30 days but can be extended for additional 30-day periods.

Deadly month for journalists

Threats of media closures are taking place within the context of what the Committee to Protect Journalists or CPJ has described as the deadliest month for journalists since the press freedom group began gathering data in 1992.

Since the war began, at least 42 reporters have been killed, including 37 Palestinians, four Israelis, and one Lebanese, according to CPJ.

Some information in this report came from Reuters.

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