The Al Jazeera logo seen in a studio [Illustrative].
(photo credit: AFP / STAN HONDA)
The Government Press Organization invalidated the press credentials of an Al Jazeera reporter on Wednesday, after he said his journalism was part of the Palestinian “resistance.”
Communications Minister Ayoub Kara sent the information about Elias Karam, a senior reporter at Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem bureau, to the GPO as part of Kara’s efforts to shut down the Qatari-owned cable news channel in Israel.
Karam said in an interview to the Muslim Brotherhood television channel Dar Al-Iman in May 2016 that “as a Palestinian journalist who is in an occupied area or a conflict area, journalistic work is an integral part of the resistance and of political and educational action.
“A journalist fulfills his role in the resistance through his pen, voice or camera, because he is part of this nation and is resisting in his unique way,” he added.
Karam was asked to attend a hearing, at which the GPO will make a final decision about his credentials.
He will be asked to explain how his claim to be part of the Palestinian resistance does not contradict journalistic ethics.
The GPO said Karam’s comments call into question his ability to be a professional journalist, representing a foreign network, if he is taking an active part in the conflict.
GPO Manager Nitzan Chen said that, although Kara asked him to revoke credentials from all Al Jazeera journalists, the credentials depend on universal journalistic ethics.
“It appears that the Al Jazeera reporter... went very far in his sharp statement that every Palestinian journalist is a part of the resistance,” Chen said. “Whoever takes an active part in a political struggle should do so in the framework of the law, but without a press card from the State of Israel.”
Karam, 40, is an Israeli citizen who resides in Nazareth, and has had a GPO card as an Al Jazeera reporter since 2011.
Al Jazeera representatives told Reuters that they would go to court to challenge moves to close it.
Joint List MKs Ahmad Tibi and Osama Saadi called the move a blatant violation of freedom of the press.
“This is a vengeful and anti-democratic step. This decision should be canceled and Elias Karam and his fellow journalists should be allowed to act freely,” the lawmakers said.
Earlier this month, Kara announced plans to close Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem office and stop the channel from being broadcast in Israel, on grounds of incitement.
“I want to make clear: Our citizens’ security and welfare takes precedence over freedom of expression in times of terrorism, period. Freedom of expression is not freedom to incite,” Kara said. “Democracy has limits. When we ask what takes precedence over what, I have no doubt at all. I prefer our civilians and soldiers to be alive.”
Kara also pointed to Saudi Arabia and other Sunni countries that 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 declined to comment, saying it is studying the case.