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Israeli Authorities Return AP Broadcast Equipment After Public Rebuke

A camera (Unsplash)
May 22, 2024

The Israeli Ministry of Communications agreed to return camera equipment it seized from the Associated Press (AP) on Tuesday, after eliciting international criticism for shutting down the news organization’s Gaza war broadcast.

Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi initially ordered the seizure of the broadcast equipment, claiming the AP was violating an Israeli media control measure by sharing allowing Al Jazeera to rebroadcast the footage. Karhi’s office moved to shut down Al Jazeera’s operations in Israel earlier this month, on claims the Qatari broadcaster was jeopardizing national security.

The AP is a wire service, and part of its business model consists of producing news and media content that it then sells to other media outlets around the world.

Karhi’s office claimed the AP’s live broadcast of the Gaza Strip posed a particular problem, not only because Al Jazeera had rebroadcast the footage, but because the broadcast revealed Israeli troop movements. The AP denied this particular claim, stating it “complies with Israel’s military censorship rules, which prohibit broadcasts of details like troop movements that could endanger soldiers.”

AP Vice President of Corporate Communications Lauren Easton the Israeli Communications Ministry’s decision to seize their broadcast equipment 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.” She demanded the Israeli ministry return the AP’s broadcast equipment.

Karhi’s decision met with further global criticism and pushback on Tuesday.

Yair Lapid, the opposition leader in the Israeli Knesset, denounced Karhi’s decision as “an act of madness” and urged further distinction between the AP and Al Jazeera. “This is not Al Jazeera, this is an American media outlet that has won 53 Pulitzer Prizes.”

Organizations like the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Freedom of the Press Foundation also issued statements denouncing the Israeli government move against the AP.

White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson told AP that “the White House and the State Department immediately engaged with the Government of Israel at high levels to express our serious concern and ask them to reverse this action.”

Karhi announced the decision to reverse course hours after the initial seizure. While he originally claimed the AP broadcast risked showing Israeli troop movements, he said the Israeli Ministry of Defense had asked his office to re-examine the security risks the broadcast allegedly posed. Karhi’s office said he moved to return the broadcast equipment to the AP agency, at least until they finish reviewing the original seizure decision.

“While we are pleased with this development, we remain concerned about the Israeli government’s use of the foreign broadcaster law and the ability of independent journalists to operate freely in Israel,” Easton said on Tuesday.

This article was originally published by FreeBase News and is reprinted with permission.