Israel extends ban on Al Jazeera as High Court orders gov’t to explain

The petition argued that the ban harms press freedom, freedom of expression, the constitutional separation of powers, and judicial independence.

By Pesach Benson, TPS

Israel’s Minister of Communications Shlomo Karhi extended a ban on Al Jazeera on Sunday hours after the High Court of Justice asked the government to explain its proscription of the Qatari news service.

“I have now signed the extension of the orders banning Al Jazeera channel broadcasts in Israel. This decision was unanimously adopted by the government, based on updated opinions from all security sources, which state unequivocally that the channel’s broadcasts are a real threat to the security of the state,” Karhi said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

On Sunday morning, Israel’s High Court of Justice had ordered the government to respond to a petition demanding that the Al-Jazeera Law — which allows for foreign news services to be temporarily shut down — be annulled.

The court specifically asked the government to either file a response by August 5 or to notify the judges that the law will not be renewed when it expires on July 31.

The petition argued that the ban harms press freedom, freedom of expression, the constitutional separation of powers and judicial independence.

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Israel shut down Al Jazeera’s news operations on May 5, revoking the network’s press credentials, confiscating transmitters and blocking its websites. The shutdown is not permanent but is subject to renewal every 45 days.

The Tel Aviv District Court upheld the ban on Wednesday.

“All in all, the overall picture obtained leaves no room for doubt about the nature of the system,” said the ruling delivered by Judge Shai Yaniv.

“The ongoing relationship between the Al-Jazeera channel and the terrorist organization, and the fact that its broadcast content serves the terrorist organization Hamas, there is a significant harm to the security of the state, which is in a difficult war with the terrorist organization.”

Efforts to ban Al Jazeera gained momentum in February after reporter Mohamed Washah was exposed as a Hamas commander. Soldiers recovered his laptop in northern Gaza and discovered he played a prominent role in the terror group’s anti-armor missile systems.

In October, Al Jazeera was accused of endangering Israeli soldiers by exposing details of where forces were assembling, prompting the Cabinet to approve emergency regulations to temporarily shut down Al Jazeera operations in Israel.

While that move received across-the-board support from the security and diplomatic establishment, it was never implemented as Qatar emerged as a mediator between Israel and Hamas for a hostage swap.

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The “Al Jazeera Law” passed by the Knesset in April authorizes the Prime Minister and the Minister of Communications to take measures against foreign news services after receiving at least one security opinion and with the approval of the government or the Cabinet.

At least 1,200 people were killed, and 252 Israelis and foreigners were taken hostage in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on October 7. Of the 116 remaining hostages, more than 30 are believed dead.