Israeli officials seize AP’s broadcasting equipment citing new media law

Officials took down AP’s live stream of northern Gaza for sharing the video content with banned outlet Al Jazeera


Israeli officials seized equipment belonging to the Associated Press on 21 May, 2024 over the supposed violation of the new ban on Al Jazeera, to whom the AP sends its live footage. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images)

Israeli authorities confiscated broadcasting equipment belonging to the Associated Press (AP) on Tuesday after the media outlet allegedly violated a controversial new foreign broadcasting law by sending live stream footage of Gaza to Al Jazeera.

Officials from the Communications Ministry seized the equipment from southern Israel Tuesday afternoon, according to the AP, over the accusation that the news organisation is in breach of Israel’s recent ban on Al Jazeera following the passage of a law allowing the Israeli government to temporarily shut down foreign news outlets viewed as “threatening state security.”

The officials reportedly handed the AP representatives a piece of paper, signed by Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, alleging the media outlet was violating the country's new foreign media law.

Al Jazeera, banned in Israel by a unanimous cabinet vote earlier this month, is among “thousands” of media clients to receive the AP’s live video feed of northern Gaza, according to the AP. The footage taken by the AP, showing a general view of the region, is compliant with Israeli military censorship regulations, which prohibit broadcasts of details that could endanger soldiers.

Lauren Easton, VP of Corporate Communications at AP, said in a statement on Tuesday: “The Associated Press decries in the strongest terms the actions of the Israeli government to shut down our longstanding live feed showing a view into Gaza and seize AP equipment.

“The shutdown was not based on the content of the feed but rather an abusive use by the Israeli government of the country’s new foreign broadcaster law. We urge the Israeli authorities to return our equipment and enable us to reinstate our live feed immediately so we can continue to provide this important visual journalism to thousands of media outlets around the world.

Israeli opposition politician Yair Lapid condemned the government's decision, calling it "an act of madness" and adding that Netanyahu's administration had "gone crazy," adding that the AP "is not Al Jazeera, this is an American media outlet that has won 53 Pulitzer Prizes."

“This is not Al Jazeera. This is an American news outlet,” Lapid said. “This government acts as if it has decided to make sure at any cost that Israel will be shunned all over the world.”

On 5 May, Israeli officials used the new foreign broadcasting law to shut down the offices of Al Jazeera, blocking its websites and broadcasts in a motion that caused regional media groups to warn of the implication of restricting national press freedoms.

The Foreign Press Association of Israel, which represents dozens of international news outlets operating in the country, said after the motion: “With this decision, Israel joins a dubious club of authoritarian governments to ban the station. And the government may not be done. The prime minister has the authority to target other foreign media that he deems to be ‘acting against the state.’”

“We urge the government to reverse this harmful step and uphold its commitment to freedom of the press – including outlets whose coverage it may not like.”

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