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Article Israel: Government Authorizes Temporary Shutdown of Al Jazeera's Broadcasting in Israel

On April 1, 2024, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) adopted the Prevention of Foreign Broadcasting Entity Harm to State Security Law (Temporary Order–Iron Swords), 5774-2024 (Foreign Broadcasters Law).

Under the authority of this law, on May 5, 2024, the Israeli government voted unanimously in favor of shutting down the Qatar-based Al Jazeera channel in Israel. The decision was based on “an opinion issued by the Israel Security Agency (Shabak), that Qatari channel’s broadcasts substantially harm state security, a condition required to close the channel.” 

Content and Procedures Under the Foreign Broadcasters Law

The Foreign Broadcasters Law allows the government to prevent broadcasting by foreign media companies under certain circumstances. Specifically, it authorizes the Minister of Communications, following a determination by the Prime Minister—based on the professional opinion of the Israel Defense Forces, the Israel Security Agency, or the Israel Secret Intelligence Service (Mossad)—that content broadcasted on a foreign channel in Israel harms national security in a substantial manner, and with the approval of the ministerial committee for national security or the government, to:

(1) instruct the provider of content to cease broadcasting such channel;
(2) order the closure of the offices of such channel located in Israeli territory;
(3) order the seizure of a device [but not to access data on end user digital equipment seized under the order] . . . ;

(4) instruct the responsible party [as defined by the law] to remove the website of such a channel, if the server on which the website is stored is in Israel or is controlled by a person located in Israel or controlled by a corporation registered in Israel, or to order access to the website of such a channel be restricted. (§ 2 (a).)

An order under the law becomes effective upon delivery to the broadcaster, and must be published in the official gazette. It may be in force for a period not exceeding 45 days but may be extended for additional periods of up to 45 days each under circumstances specified in the law. (§3.) An order or extension under the law must be brought to the attention of a district court judge within 24 hours. The judge will review the order within three days and determine whether it should be changed or limited in duration.

The law will remain in effect until July 31, 2024, the end of the declaration of a special situation on the home front, or the conclusion of significant military operations, whichever comes first.

Application

According to Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi’s office, “the drive to shut down Al Jazeera in Israel was based on ‘proof that it is assisting the enemy, broadcasting propaganda in the service of Hamas, in Arabic and English, to viewers around the world, and even passing sensitive information to the enemy.’”

Concerns over the legislation and its implications have been expressed by the White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and some human rights organizations. Such concerns have been rejected by others.

Citing “prominent cases of erroneous or false reports broadcast by the network,” an Israeli newspaper article notes that “the Qatari news network, which was perceived in Israel as hostile even before the war, has become a significant tool in the battle for world public opinion since October 7.”

A media report stated that,

[s]ince the war in Gaza started, the government has blocked attempts to halt the Qatari TV channel’s operation to avoid sabotaging Qatar’s mediation efforts in Israel’s negotiations with Hamas. Israel chose instead to pass on messages to Qatar asking it to downplay reports by Al Jazeera.

A diplomatic source told Haaretz it’s no coincidence that the decision to push the issue is simultaneous with talks in Doha for reaching a hostage deal. “It’s clear that this move is intended to put pressure on Qatar. The law and the curtailing of Al Jazeera activity in Israel are another tool Israel can use to increase pressure on Qatar so it uses its influence over Hamas so it makes the organization moderate its positions,” said the source.

Qatar has hosted Hamas’s political leadership since 2012.

Ruth Levush, Law Library of Congress
May 7, 2024

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Chicago citation style:

Levush, Ruth. Israel: Government Authorizes Temporary Shutdown of Al Jazeera's Broadcasting in Israel. 2024. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-05-06/israel-government-authorizes-temporary-shutdown-of-al-jazeeras-broadcasting-in-israel/.

APA citation style:

Levush, R. (2024) Israel: Government Authorizes Temporary Shutdown of Al Jazeera's Broadcasting in Israel. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-05-06/israel-government-authorizes-temporary-shutdown-of-al-jazeeras-broadcasting-in-israel/.

MLA citation style:

Levush, Ruth. Israel: Government Authorizes Temporary Shutdown of Al Jazeera's Broadcasting in Israel. 2024. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-05-06/israel-government-authorizes-temporary-shutdown-of-al-jazeeras-broadcasting-in-israel/>.