Burying the Lede
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Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi recently gained the power to halt foreign media broadcasts and confiscate foreign media equipment on the grounds of national security.
The new regulations, approved Oct. 20, mainly targeted Al Jazeera, the state-owned, Qatar-based news organization that Karhi claimed was “harming national security and inciting violence,” according to the Times of Israel.
But it would allow authorities to temporarily shut down any media outlet that it believes is “undermining national security, public order or serving as a basis for enemy propaganda.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken even became involved in the issue, telling American-Jewish leaders that he asked the prime minister of Qatar to “tone down Al Jazeera’s rhetoric about the war in Gaza,” according to an Axios article.
Now Karhi is waiting on word from Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on whether he should shutter Al Jazeera, Voice of America wrote. In the meantime, added Al Jazeera, the Israeli government blocked the websites and broadcasts of the Lebanon-based, pro-Iranian channel Al Mayadeen.
These complicated political and diplomatic happenings, among other attempts to stifle free speech and reporting, have alarmed advocates for a free press, are occurring as Israel battles Hamas in the Gaza Strip, inflicting massive casualties on civilians in an enclave regularly described as an open-air prison.
Hamas killed around 1,200 people and took more than 200 hostages in a terror attack on Oct. 7. More than 17,000 people have been killed in Gaza so far in the offensive that Israel launched in response.
Among those killed are a shockingly high number of journalists who have died while covering the war, either in Gaza or in Lebanon.
The International Federation of Journalists said that 68 journalists have died since the Oct. 7 attacks, reported the Associated Press. These deaths are controversial because they potentially attest to imprecision or a lack of discretion among Israeli forces as the war unfolds.
“The dead include Palestinian freelance journalists working for international news services, and others who work for local news outlets crucial for local understanding of what’s happening,” wrote Macquarie University journalism professor Peter Greste in the Conversation. “Many have died in air strikes on their homes, some alongside their children and families.”
These claims have been substantiated. Reuters, for instance, extensively investigated how an Israeli tank crew killed a Reuters reporter and injured six other journalists in Lebanon in October. Israeli forces have denied the allegations.
Meanwhile, in another example of keeping a tight grip on the free flow of information into and out of the Gaza Strip, Karhi also recently sealed a deal with Elon Musk that allows the Israeli government to cut off Gaza’s access to Musk’s Starlink satellite, the Hill reported.
Some are trying hard to control the narrative. Others, meanwhile, are losing their lives in it.