The Al Jazeera law in Israel – One more step in silencing dissent

On April 1st , the Israeli Knesset passed the so-called “Al Jazeera” law, granting the government authority to shut down foreign news outlets operating in Israel if they were deemed to pose a threat to national security. Following the vote, the Israeli Communications Ministry swiftly announced plans to close Al Jazeera’s operations within the Israeli territory, citing accusations it “promotes terrorism”. As the ministry stated, “There will be no freedom of expression to Hamas mouthpieces in Israel”.  

This legislation comes as the Israeli government have already taken numerous measures to suppress dissenting voices within civil society, particularly those critical of its policies in the ongoing conflict with Palestinians. As reported by Adalah NGO, Israeli citizens of Palestinian descent have borne the brunt of the government’s measures to suppress opposition since October 7th. These measures include exclusion and suspension of students from academic institutions, job terminations, unlawful arrests and blanket bans on shows of solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.  

In Gaza itself, media actors and their infrastructure have also been victims of Israeli attacks. Since the beginning of the war, at least 103 reporters have been killed in Gaza, with 22 being killed in the course of their work. These include Al Jazeera journalists Hamza Dahdouh and Moustapha Thurayya, killed when their vehicle was hit by an Israeli bomb. Also, 3 journalists were killed on 21 November 2023, hit by shelling from an Israeli tank on the Lebenses boarders.  

Israeli violence against journalists is not a recent phenomenon, however. A noteworthy example is the killing of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Aklehby Israeli forces while reporting and visibly marked as a member of the press. Two years after her death no perpetrator has been held accountable. 

Palestine is today one of the world’s most perilous areas for journalists , and an implementation of the Al Jazeera law risk further exacerbating the situation.  

The EU and Member States must pressure Israel to end its campaign against journalists and its pattern of criminalizing dissenting opinion. As a signatory of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, Israel must abide by article 19 of the Covenant and respect the right to freedom of expression. If Israel insists to remain uncompliant with the right to freedom of expression, the EU must review its EU – IL Association Agreement and, based on its clause that the terms of the agreement should be based on respect for human rights, suspend it if necessary. Furthermore, the EU must advocate for international legal accountability for Israeli human rights violations to ensure that perpetrators face appropriate justice.