Israel court approves temporary ban on Al Jazeera, citing national security

By Thomson Reuters Jun 5, 2024 | 6:16 AM

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – An Israeli court on Wednesday upheld a 35-day ban on Al Jazeera operations in Israel imposed by the government on national security grounds and a minister said he hoped to extend the ban for another 45 days when it runs out on Saturday.

Israeli authorities raided a Jerusalem hotel room used by Al Jazeera as its office on May 5 and said they were shutting the operation down for the duration of the Gaza war, accusing the broadcaster of encouraging hostilities against Israel.

Al Jazeera rejected the accusations as a “dangerous and ridiculous lie” that put its journalists at risk.

Wednesday’s court ruling retroactively approved a 35-day ban until June 8.

Tel Aviv District Court Judge Shai Yaniv said he had been provided with evidence, which he did not specify, of a long-standing and close relationship between the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and Qatari-backed broadcaster Al Jazeera, accusing the channel of promoting Hamas goals.

“Freedom of expression has an special importance during time of war. However, when there is significant harm to state security, the latter consideration comes first,” he wrote.

Al Jazeera, which has criticised Israel’s military operations in Gaza, from where it has reported throughout the war, told the court it did not incite violence or terrorism and that the ban was disproportionate, according to court documents.

Regarding the allegation of ties with Hamas, it said its journalists had a wide range of confidential sources on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides.

The channel has accused Israel of deliberately killing several of its journalists in Gaza. Israel says it does not target journalists.

Israeli satellite and cable television providers suspended Al Jazeera broadcasts following the government’s May 5 instruction. The communications minister said on Wednesday it aimed to extend the ban for a further 45 days.

The United Nations human rights office and the United States have criticised the shutdown of Al Jazeera’s Israel operation.

Qatar, where several Hamas political leaders are based, is trying to mediate a ceasefire and hostage release deal that could halt the Gaza war.

(Reporting by Steven Scheer and Ari Rabinovitch; editing by Philippa Fletcher)