Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Israeli officials seize AP equipment, citing alleged media law violation

(Al Jazeera Media Network) Israeli officials have seized a camera and broadcasting equipment belonging to the Associated Press (AP) news agency in southern Israel, accusing the organization of violating a new media law by providing images to Al Jazeera.

Qatari-owned media network and satellite channel Al Jazeera is among thousands of clients that receive live video feeds from the AP and other news organizations.

“The Associated Press decries in the strongest terms the actions of the Israeli government to shut down our longstanding live feed showing a view into Gaza and seize AP equipment,” said Lauren Easton, vice-president of corporate communications at AP.

“The shutdown was not based on the content of the feed, but rather an abusive use by the Israeli government of the country’s new foreign broadcaster law. We urge the Israeli authorities to return our equipment and enable us to reinstate our live feed immediately so we can continue to provide this important visual journalism to thousands of media outlets around the world.”

Officials from the Communications Ministry arrived at the AP location in the southern town of Sderot on Tuesday afternoon and seized the equipment. They handed the AP a piece of paper, signed by Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, alleging it was violating the country’s foreign broadcaster law.

Shortly before the equipment was seized, the AP was broadcasting a general view of famine-struck northern Gaza, where Israeli forces continue to press a ground and aerial assault.

AP said it complies with Israel’s military censorship rules, which prohibit broadcasts of details such as troop movements that could endanger soldiers. The live shot has generally shown smoke rising over the besieged territory.

The seizure followed a verbal order Thursday to cease the live transmission – which AP refused to do.

“In accordance with the government decision and the instruction of the communications minister, the communications ministry will continue to take whatever enforcement action is required to limit broadcasts that harm the security of the state,” the ministry said in a statement.

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid decried the move as “an act of madness.”

“This government behaves as if it has decided to make sure at all costs that Israel will be swayed all over the world. They went crazy,” he said.

The U.S. administration said it was a “concerning” development.

“We stand firm in our belief that journalists have the ability, right to do their jobs,” the White House said.

Hamas also denounced the move, saying it was a “recurring, arbitrary, and oppressive act” against press freedom. The group said the move intended to “cover up crimes” carried out by Israeli forces against Palestinians.

On May 5, the Israeli cabinet voted unanimously to shut down Al Jazeera in the country, immediately ordering the closure of its offices and a ban on the company’s broadcasts and websites. Al Jazeera condemned the decision as a “criminal act”.

It came weeks after Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, passed a law on April 1 that allowed Israel to temporarily shut down foreign media outlets — including Al Jazeera — if it deems them a threat to security.



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