Monday, May 27, 2024

Over 50 Al Jazeera journalists attacked since October 7, media network says amid global condemnation of Israel’s actions

In a significant development, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet voted unanimously to ban Al Jazeera, the Qatar-funded media network, from operating within Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

The alarming escalation in Israel’s long-running campaign against Al Jazeera media network comes just weeks after Israel’s parliament granted Netanyahu authoritarian powers to order the closure of foreign media outlets he deems a “threat to national security.”

Al Jazeera condemns “criminal act”, vows to continue reporting

Al Jazeera fiercely condemned the decision, labeling it a “criminal act” that “violates human rights and the basic right to access information.” The network vowed to continue its reporting, warning that “Israel’s suppression of the free press stands in contravention of international and humanitarian law.” It accused Netanyahu of “incitement” and holding him “responsible for the safety” of its staff globally.

Al Jazeera’s critical Gaza coverage targeted

Al Jazeera has been one of the only international outlets maintaining a presence in Gaza to document Israel’s devastating bombardment, which Palestinian authorities say has killed over 32,000 people, mostly civilians. Israel has long suppressed the graphic coverage, having previously destroyed buildings housing Al Jazeera offices as well as those of other international media.

The decision drastically escalates Israel’s long-running attempt to silence Al Jazeera’s critical coverage of its occupation of Palestinian territories. Israeli officials have repeatedly accused the network of biased reporting and collaborating with Hamas, allegations Al Jazeera has consistently rejected.

“Al Jazeera reiterates that such slanderous accusations will not deter us from continuing our bold and professional coverage,” the network stated, saying it “reserves the right to pursue every legal step.”

Over 50 attacks on Al Jazeera staff since October 2023

Israel has ramped up attacks on Al Jazeera and other media in recent months as it has faced protests over its handling of the war in Gaza. According to the network’s Jerusalem bureau chief Walid Omary, there have been more than 50 attacks against Al Jazeera journalists since October 7th, 2023 alone.

Some of the most shocking incidents include the killing of veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by Israeli forces in May 2022, which a UN inquiry concluded involved “unjustified use of lethal force.” More recently, cameraman Samer Abudaqa bled to death in December 2023 after an Israeli drone strike, as he was denied medical evacuation for over four hours while reporting at a school in Khan Younis.

On October 25th, 2023, an air raid killed the entire family of Gaza bureau chief Wael Dahdouh, including his wife, son, daughter, grandson and at least eight other relatives. Barely three months later, on January 7th, 2024, Dahdouh’s eldest son Hamza, also a journalist, was killed by an Israeli missile strike in Khan Younis while trying to interview displaced civilians.

Global condemnation of Israeli attack on press freedom

Press freedom advocates swiftly condemned the network’s ban, with the International Federation of Journalists deputy Tim Dawson calling it an “atrocious” decision of the kind deployed by “despots,” not democracies. Analyst Nour Odeh warned the ban threatens all critical Israeli media, saying “people should be concerned…this is not just about Al Jazeera.”

As Israel’s violent crackdown on Palestinian rights and its occupation continues to draw global condemnation, its attempt to fully silence one of the few remaining independent voices could prove a disastrous miscalculation. The world will be watching whether Al Jazeera’s journalists face further repression for documenting the harsh realities unfolding in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

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