Philippine, global media groups blast Tel Aviv’s attack on Al Jazeera

Philippine media organizations condemned the State of Israel’s closure of Al Jazeera’s operations in Israel as an attack on press freedom and the people’s right to information.

In separate statements, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the Philippine chapter of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) and the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) said Tel Aviv’s action is an attempt to hide Israel’s military operations.

The zionist state is engaged in a war against Palestinian freedom fighters in Gaza as well as against Iran.

The NUJP said the more than 100 journalists and media workers, including from Al Jazeera, have been killed since Israel’s assault on Gaza started and those who remain in the besieged territory report at great personal risk.

“[T]he Al Jazeera shutdown is an insult not just to their courage and dedication but also to the supposed free flow of information to the world,” the NUJP said.

IAWRT Philippines for its part said Al Jazeera’s closure in Israel undermines press freedom and restricts access to independent journalism, “particularly where providing diverse perspectives and reporting on critical issues such as the ongoing conflict in Palestine.”

The shutdown comes after Israel’s parliament passed a law allowing the closure of foreign media outlets it claims as “a threat to security.”

IAWRT pointed out that women journalists at Al Jazeera have been at the forefront of reporting from conflict zones and how wars impact marginalized communities.

“This will also exacerbate the safety challenges that they have long been facing, including how their bureau chief Wael Dahdouh was wounded in an Israeli strike while Samer Abudaqa was killed while reporting in Southern Gaza,” the group said.

Tel Aviv’s decision may also lead to a chilling effect on journalists who are exposing the atrocities and war crimes being inflicted on Palestine, IAWRT Philippines said.

“Most importantly, this silences and suppresses people’s voices on the ground, and hinders their search for justice and accountability,” it added.

The FOCAP said it stands in solidarity with Al Jazeera and other media workers covering the Israeli-Gaza war and its closure by Israel “is another form of death for the free press.”

“Al Jazeera has been at the forefront of unflinching reporting, providing a platformfor marginalized voices in Gaza and other Palestinian territories. The shutdown leaves a void in global news coverage of the conflict. In a time of war, such a news blackout is a matter of life and death,” the group said.

IAWRT Philippines said it also stands in solidarity with Al Jazeera journalists, especially its women reporters, and expresses its concern about the impact the shutdown may have on reporting from the region.

NUJP added that as Filipino journalists are still recovering from government attempts to silence newsrooms for justifications similar to Tel Aviv’s, cannot be quiet when it happens elsewhere.

“Newsroom shutdowns threaten livelihoods, decrease access to information and subtract from the truth that the profession is supposed to look for and report,” NUJP said.

A respected global broadcaster and news source, Al Jazeera is based and partly funded by the Qatar government.

(Altermidya file photo)

Condemnations around the world

Abroad, the Foreign Press Association, an organization representing foreign correspondents in the region said Israel’s attack on Al Jazeera’s headquarters is “a dark day for the media (and) a dark day for democracy.”

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

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (UNOHCHR) also criticized the move, saying it regrets the Benjamin Netanyahu regime’s decision.

“A free and independent media is essential to ensuring transparency and accountability, now, even more so given tight restrictions on reporting from Gaza. Freedom of expression is a key human right. We urge govt to overturn ban,” the UNOHCHR said.

United States-based Committee to Protect Journalists also condemned the closure and the blocking of the channel’s websites. 

 “This move sets an extremely alarming precedent for restricting international media outlets working in Israel. The Israeli cabinet must allow Al-Jazeera and all international media outlets to operate freely in Israel, especially during wartime,” CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna in New York said.

Reporters Without Borders (Rapporteurs Sans Fronteires, RSF) denounced  Israel’s “repressive legislation” that now censor’s Al Jazeera’s critical coverage of Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip, which has killed over 34,700 Palestinians since it began on 7 October.  

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in its own condemnation also raised concerns about the confiscation of journalists’ personal work equipment and phones.

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “What possible motivation could there be for snatching phones and computers, save for trying to discover the journalists’ sources – this violates the most elemental rights of reporters to protect their sources”.

“Banning journalists and shutting down broadcasters are moves straight from the despots playbook. This is a further departure by the Israeli government from the respect for a free media expected of a democracy. We have already seen foreign reporters banned from Gaza, attacks on Israel’s domestic media, and truly shocking treatment of Palestinian journalists,” Bellanger added.

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS), representing Palestinian journalists working for Al Jazeera said: “We condemn this decision, which targets freedom of expression and the ability of journalists to do their work. It is indicative of the desperation of the occupation government.”

The National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom and Ireland (NUJ-UK&I) said: Those with secrets to hide or who are ashamed of their actions forcibly close down television stations.”

“Targeting Al Jazeera as the Israeli government has is a direct attack on free speech that brings shame on those responsible – I hope they will soon realise their error and reverse this decision,” NUJ-UK&I general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)