Thursday, June 15, 2017

Amid Qatar crisis, Israel considers closing local Al Jazeera bureau - AP and Israel Hayom Staff




by AP and Israel Hayom Staff

Jordan and Saudi Arabia have 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.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering shutting down the local offices of Arab satellite broadcaster Al Jazeera, an Israeli official said Tuesday. The move follows the crackdown against Qatar by Sunni countries across the region. 

Saudi Arabia has been leading an effort to isolate Qatar, accusing the energy-rich Persian Gulf state and the Qatari-backed network of supporting violent Islamic groups across the Middle East.

Jordan and Saudi Arabia have 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.

While Israel is not formally part of that effort, the stepped-up pressure appears to have emboldened Netanyahu to look into closing down the channel's local operations as well. Israeli officials have long accused Al Jazeera of bias against Israel, and on Monday, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman accused it of promoting incitement and likened its coverage to "Nazi Germany-style" propaganda.

The Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Tuesday that government officials held a meeting on the issue on Monday. The Israeli official confirmed that discussions were underway but said no decisions had been made. Netanyahu's office declined to comment.

Walid Omary, Al Jazeera's local bureau chief, said he had not been notified of any formal action against his operation. But he rejected the Israeli claims of bias and accused Israel of waging an incitement campaign.

"This is not the first time they have attacked us," he said. "I hope they will withdraw the threat."

Shutting the bureau would likely face significant legal obstacles and test Israel's commitment to protecting freedom of the press.

Some key officials might also oppose the step. While Israel complains about Al Jazeera's coverage, the station is also one of the few Arab media bodies that interviews Israeli officials, giving Israeli leaders a rare outlet to address the Arab public.



AP and Israel Hayom Staff

Source:  http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=43101

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