(NEW YORK) — In response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announcing he would shut down Al Jazeera in Israel after the Israeli Knesset passed a bill authorizing him to do so, PEN America issued the following statement:
“The Israeli government’s decision to shut down Al Jazeera’s operation in Israel is a clear violation of press freedom, and the Israeli prime minister’s rhetoric at a time when Israel’s retaliatory military campaign against Hamas has killed so many journalists is unconscionable. The Israeli government must reverse this decision immediately, stop using sweeping laws to clamp down on the media, and take appropriate steps to safeguard journalists and allow them to do the vital work of reporting.”
Israel’s Knesset passed the bill on April 2 authorizing Israeli ministers to shut down the Qatari-owned network’s offices in Israel and block broadcasts from other countries. The same day, Netanyahu vowed to shut down Al Jazeera, describing the network as “a terror channel” and accusing it of participating in the October 7 Hamas attack. Al Jazeera rejected the accusations as “lies and inflammatory slanders.” Israeli officials have previously threatened to shut down the network and have repeatedly used inflammatory rhetoric and made similar accusations against Palestinian journalists. 
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 95 journalists have been killed since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war, the overwhelming majority of them Palestinian. Several Al Jazeera journalists have been killed in Israeli airstrikes, and there was a recent incident of an assault by Israeli forces. The network is one of the few that continues to operate in Gaza, which is otherwise largely off-limits to international journalists and media outlets.