Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Israel Officially Silences Al-Jazeera

The Israeli government has taken an official decision to silence Al-Jazeera and restrict its activities in Israel. As a result of this directive:

- Israel will not renew the visas of Al Jazeera's non-Israeli employees or grant visas to new employees;
- Station representatives will have reduced accessibility to government and military bodies, and will not be allowed into briefings or press conferences;
- Al-Jazeera will have access to only three official spokespeople - those of the Prime Minister's Office, Foreign Ministry and the Israel Defense Forces. The information directorate has also provided a non-binding instruction to Knesset members and ministers not to grant interviews or otherwise cooperate with Al Jazeera.

See Ha'aretz here.

A Foreign Ministry official commenting on the government's decision nevertheless insisted, "Israel believes in freedom of the press and in the public's right to know".

Although Israel claims that this decision is a response to Qatar's closing of the Israeli trade office in Doha, another valid (unstated) reason is Al-Jazeera's stellar coverage of the war in Gaza. That coverage spoke to the world of Israeli atrocities on Gaza's population and infrastructure. It showed the world how ugly war can get and turned even those otherwise supportive of Israel's 'war on terror' less swayed by Israel's military tactics and its general future direction. To restrict Al-Jazeera's coverage post war seems only due punishment.

And so silencing of the media in Israel continues.

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