An employee walks inside an office of Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network in Jerusalem June 13, 2017. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Security comes before freedom of expression, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara said at a press conference on Sunday, as he laid out a fivepoint plan backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to shut down Qatari cable network Al Jazeera.
Netanyahu congratulated Kara on Twitter, writing: “Following my instructions, he took several practical steps today to stop the actions of incitement by Al Jazeera in Israel.”
Kara said Al Jazeera should be banned from broadcasting from Israel on grounds of incitement.
“I want to make clear: Our citizens’ security and welfare overcomes freedom of expression in times of terror, period. Freedom of expression is not freedom to incite,” Kara said. “Democracy has limits. When we ask what overcomes what, I have no doubt at all. I prefer our citizens and soldiers alive.”
Kara asked the Government Press Office to revoke Al Jazeera reporters’ press cards. He also spoke to the cable and satellite television companies in Israel, which he said expressed willingness to stop broadcasting Al Jazeera.
In addition, Kara asked Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to use his authority to close the network’s Israeli offices and asked for the channel’s broadcasts on open satellites – used by many Israeli Arabs – to be blocked.
Finally, Kara announced plans to promote legislation that would give the government the ability, in exceptional cases, to put security before freedom of expression.
Last week, Kara put his plan to shutter Al Jazeera in a broader Middle Eastern context, saying Saudi Arabia and other Sunni countries have called to shut down Al Jazeera entirely as part of their pressure on the Qatari regime. The countries campaigning against Qatar are not democracies that purport to have a free press.
“We identify with the moderates in the Arab world who are fighting terrorism and religious extremism,” Kara said. “Here in Israel, there is no place for a channel that backs terrorism either.”
The Foreign Press Association, of which Al Jazeera journalists in Israel are members, said most of them have identification cards issued by the Government Press Office, which means they are government- vetted. They called Kara’s actions a “slippery slope.”
When reports first surfaced last month that the channel might be taken off the air, Al Jazeera stressed it would take “all necessary legal measures [if Israel] acts on its threat.”