Israel approves emergency regulations that could pave way to closing Al Jazeera offices

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Illustrative: An employee of Al Jazeera walks past the channel's logo at its headquarters in Doha, Qatar, in 2006. (AP/ Kamran Jebreili, File)
Illustrative: An employee of Al Jazeera walks past the channel's logo at its headquarters in Doha, Qatar, in 2006. (AP/ Kamran Jebreili, File)

The government has approved regulations that will allow it to temporarily shut down foreign news channels during states of emergency, such as the current war with terror group Hamas in Gaza, if it believes the outlet is damaging national security.

Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi has led the charge to pass these regulations in order to shut down the Al Jazeera news channel, which he claims has damaged national security.

The regulations are retroactive, meaning broadcasts by the Qatari network since the war started can now be used as the basis for a decision to shut down the staunchly pro-Palestinian news outlet’s local branch.

“Israel is at war on land, in the air, at sea, and on the public diplomacy front. We will not allow in any way broadcasts that harm the security of the state… The broadcasts and reports of Al Jazeera constitute incitement against Israel, help Hamas-ISIS and the terror organizations with their propaganda, and encourage violence against Israel,” says Karhi.

According to the new regulations, the communications minister — with the agreement of the defense minister — will be able to order TV providers to stop broadcasting the news outlet in question; close its offices in Israel, seize its equipment, and shut down its website or restrict access to its website, depending on the location of its server.

The decision must be approved by the security cabinet, must be based on legal opinions by the security establishment that the outlet is indeed harming national security, and is subject to the review of a district court.

Such a decision will be valid for 30 days but can be extended for additional 30-day periods. The emergency regulations will be in place for three months, or until the specific state of emergency is formally ended by the government.

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