Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has banned Al-Jazeera’s Israel chief from a talk on press freedom, despite him being an Israeli journalist.
The Union of Journalists in Israel joined senior Foreign Ministry officials in expressing concern about the move, which comes as the government seeks to revoke the network’s press permits. The journalists’ union called it an “intolerable move in a democracy”.
It comes after Netanyahu ordered the Government Press Office (GPO) to ban Walid al-Omari from a state-sponsored talk on freedom of speech on Thursday.
The seminar is titled “Limits of free expression: the dilemma between national security and freedom of the press,” and is believed to use the Al-Jazeera network as a case study. Al-Omari is an Israeli citizen based in Nazareth.
Earlier this summer Netanyahu announced that Al-Jazeera journalists would be banned from operating in Israel, after three Gulf states and Egypt cut ties with Qatar, imposing a land, sea and air blockade, on account of Qatar’s close relationship with Iran. Al-Jazeera, which reports mainly on the Arab world, receives Qatari state funding.
An Israeli Foreign Ministry source told Ha’aretz: “There’s no doubt that any infringement on activities by Al Jazeera and its reporters in Israel would cause public relations damage to Israel overseas.”
Ironically, Netanyahu’s actions come at a time when Israeli police are investigating his conversations with publisher Arnon Mozes over an alleged deal for media coverage that showed Netanyahu in a positive light.