In response to the Israeli parliament advancing the bill to make the banning of Al Jazeera permanent, PEN America issued the following response:

“PEN America urgently calls on the Israeli government to reject the Knesset bill that could potentially be used to ban any foreign news networks from operating in Israel. The Israeli government’s decision to temporarily shut down Al Jazeera’s operation in Israel and seize equipment belonging to the Associated Press was a clear violation of press freedom, and the move to permanently ban any foreign media network on vague security grounds will be extremely detrimental for free expression at a moment when the free flow of information is critical. This effort to silence voices that are critical of Israeli government decisions sets a dangerous precedent that not only compromises the watchdog role of the press, but also undermines democratic principles and the public’s right to be informed.”

If passed, this bill will allow communication minister Shlomo Karhi to shut down any foreign media outlet in Israel if it is perceived as a threat to the state. It also gives Karhi the authority to order government agencies to block cable and satellite broadcasts if they could harm national security. 

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has documented that at least 108 journalists and media workers (103 Palestinian, two Israeli, and three Lebanese) were among the more than 37,000 Palestinians killed since the conflict began, making it the deadliest period for journalists since CPJ began gathering data in 1992. Al-Jazeera is one of the few networks still operating in Gaza and providing live footage of the war.

According to PEN America’s 2023 Freedom to Write Index, Israel was the world’s fifth-largest jailer of writers, following China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam, with 17 writers imprisoned. Additionally, CPJ has documented a total of 49 arrests of journalists in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza and in the city of Jerusalem, claimed by both Israel and the Palestinians as a capital, since the war began on October 7, 2023. Israel arrested 46; Palestinian authorities arrested three. We strongly urge the Israeli government and Palestinian authorities to release and drop all charges against writers, journalists, and dissidents imprisoned for their free expression.

We reiterate our call, alongside PEN International, for an immediate ceasefire and release of the hostages —  an agreement that can pave the way for urgent humanitarian access and lasting peace.