LONDON — Israel’s decision to close the offices of broadcaster Al Jazeera in the Jewish state is “a brazen attack on media freedom,” Amnesty International said Monday.
“The move sends a chilling message that the Israeli authorities will not tolerate critical coverage,” Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at the London-based group, said in a statement.
“This is a brazen attack on media freedom in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” she added.
She urged Israel to “halt any attempt to silence critical media,” saying that “all journalists should be free to carry out their work without facing harassment or intimidation.”
Israel said Sunday it would demand the revocation of the credentials of journalists working for the channel and also cut its cable and satellite connections.
Israel is to join regional Arab states that have already shut the station after accusing the broadcaster of inciting violence, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara (Likud) said.
Jordan and Saudi Arabia have recently closed Al Jazeera’s local offices, while the channel and its affiliate sites have been blocked in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain.
“Lately, almost all countries in our region determined that Al Jazeera supports terrorism, supports religious radicalization,” Kara said. “And when we see that all these countries have determined as fact that Al Jazeera is a tool of the Islamic State [group], Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, and we are the only one who have not determined that, then something ludicrous is happening here,” he said, adding that the channel “caused us to lose the lives of the best of our sons.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month that he wanted Al Jazeera expelled amid tensions over Israel’s decision to install metal detectors at entrances to the Temple Mount following the July 14 terror at the site, in which three Arab Israelis shot dead two police officers using weapons smuggled into the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Israeli officials have long accused Al Jazeera of incitement to terror. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has likened its coverage to “Nazi Germany-style” propaganda.
Al Jazeera, a pan-Arab satellite network funded by the Qatari government, has been targeted by Arab nations now isolating Qatar as part of a months-long political dispute over Doha’s politics and alleged support for extremists.