Muzzling Witnesses to Genocide

Netanyahu Challenges the World on World Press Freedom Day by Shutting Down Al Jazeera Channel Local Offices

Sunday, May 12, 2024
Muzzling Witnesses to Genocide

Mwatana for Human Rights stated that the decision by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to shut down the offices of Al Jazeera news channel and prohibit its operations in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories constitutes a concerning development aimed at silencing witnesses to the truth. This move seeks to obscure war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, and the use of starvation as a weapon of war committed by Israel against Palestinian civilians, particularly the massacres perpetrated in Gaza since October 7, 2023, with a brutality that shocks the conscience of humanity and brings shame upon the world.

Mwatana, in a statement today, deemed the timing of this decision, coinciding with World Press Freedom Day and the second anniversary of the killing of Palestinian journalist Sherine Abu Akla, as a provocative and egregious challenge by Israel to all international norms, treaties, and the free, democratic world. It carries a clear and blatant implication, through which Netanyahu's government aims to send a message to the world: that it has the audacity to blatantly disregard press freedom without reservation, and that it is resolute in manipulating everything in order to suppress the truth and silence witnesses.

Abdulrasheed Al-Faqih, Vice Chairperson of Mwatana for Human Rights, stated, "The Israeli decision to close Al Jazeera's offices and prevent its operations in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories - in a public insistence on undermining the right to access information and facts, while simultaneously perpetrating the killing of Palestinian civilians - adds a new violation to Israel's list of human rights abuses. It is a desperate attempt to suppress the truth, which the entire world now knows, about the brutality of Israel and its callous disregard for the lives and safety of Palestinian civilians."

Al-Faqih emphasized, "The record of Israeli occupation is replete with direct violations against journalists and foreign media crews, ranging from continuous harassment, to arrests and killings. It has escalated to the extent of targeting journalists' families and striking their homes, all with the aim of presenting a one-sided narrative to the world, one that absolves the perpetrator and conceals the heinous crimes committed by the occupation forces against innocent Palestinian children and women."

He added, “International conventions and principles of human rights unequivocally guarantee the right to access information, seek the truth, and uphold press freedom. Any infringement upon these rights constitutes a blatant violation that should not be condoned or accepted in any form of enforcement.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced in the current month of May that his government decided to close what he termed as the "incitement channel" in Israel (referring to Al Jazeera). He claimed that the decision was made unanimously by members of the Israeli government. The repressive Israeli decision entails the closure of all offices and operations of the Al Jazeera news network in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, including television broadcasting and all affiliated media within the occupied territories. This closure also encompasses the channel's offices in Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights.

The decision to close Al Jazeera's offices in Israel marks the culmination of a campaign of incitement spearheaded by extremist ministers within Netanyahu's government and Israeli media outlets supportive of the ongoing massacre of Palestinian civilians in Gaza and the occupied territories, now entering its eighth month. In early April, the Israeli Knesset approved a law granting Netanyahu the power to ban foreign media outlets deemed to be "detrimental to Israel's security," including Al Jazeera. The law was passed with a majority of 70 votes to 10.

Mwatana for Human Rights has urged all human rights organizations, activists, independent news agencies, freelance journalists, and concerned parties worldwide to take decisive public action to halt Israeli suppression of press freedoms. They emphasize the need to thwart Israel's efforts to manipulate public opinion by shutting down Al Jazeera or any other news channel or media outlet that documents and exposes Israeli crimes against Palestinian civilians.

Additionally, Mwatana advocates for the establishment of an international coalition comprising human rights and journalism organizations to support Palestinian journalists. They propose the creation of an annual global observance, commencing on World Press Freedom Day, May 3rd, and extending to May 11th, coinciding with the anniversary of the tragic killing of Palestinian journalist Sherine Abu Akla. This initiative aims to honor the Palestinian journalistic legacy and the profound sacrifices made by journalists who bravely reported from the front lines, despite facing threats, challenges, and risks posed by the Israeli military's targeting of field journalism. It also serves as a solemn remembrance of the journalists, both deceased and surviving, as well as those who have been wounded or disappeared in Israeli prisons.