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Israel shuts down Associated Press live feed in Gaza, seizes equipment

The Associated Press said on Tuesday (21) that Israeli authorities turned off the live broadcast of the camera showing Gaza and seized its equipment, in what it classified as an “abusive use by the Israeli government of the country's new law on foreign broadcasters.” .

“The Associated Press condemns in the strongest terms the actions of the Israeli government,” the nonprofit news collective said in a statement. “We ask the Israeli authorities to return our equipment and allow us to immediately reinstate our live broadcast so that we can continue to provide this important visual journalism to thousands of media outlets around the world.”

The Israeli military regularly classifies areas around Gaza as “closed military zones,” restricting movement there. The AP's live broadcast provided insight into the actions in Gaza, where no independent journalists can operate due to Israeli and Egyptian restrictions on entry into the strip.

The White House called on Israel to reverse its decision, telling the CNN who had “concerns” about the action.

“We are engaging directly with the government of Israel to express our concerns about this action and ask them to reverse it,” according to a White House spokesperson.

The Associated Press did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN but the Foreign Press Association (FPA) expressed its alarm over the closure and confiscation.

“Israel’s actions today are a slippery slope. Israel could prevent other international news agencies from providing live footage from Gaza. It could also allow Israel to block media coverage of virtually any news event for vague security reasons,” the FPA said in a statement.

The move comes weeks after Israel shut down Al Jazeera's operations in the country, raiding the media outlet's offices and seizing its communications equipment, which led to swift condemnation from the United Nations and human rights groups over Al Jazeera's measures. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to restrict press freedom.

The law passed by Israel's parliament last month gives the prime minister and communications minister the authority to “temporarily” order the closure of foreign networks operating in Israel that are considered a threat to national security. News organizations may be banned for a period of 45 days, although the government may renew the ban for additional 45-day periods. The law itself is also technically temporary and will expire on July 31 or earlier if a war-related emergency declaration is canceled.

Several legal challenges to the law are pending in Israeli courts. Israel's Supreme Court recently refused to issue an emergency injunction against the law put forward by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

The group stated in its petition presented in early April that the law “violates freedom of expression, the right to information and freedom of the press” and “tramples the principles of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, since includes a “substitution clause” that prevents the court from overturning an illegal decision.” Another legal challenge was filed in the Tel Aviv District Court.

In a statement, Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi accused the AP of violating its new law by providing images to its thousands of news clients, including Al Jazeera.

“The camera that was confiscated illegally broadcasts on the Al Jazeera channel live in the north of the Gaza Strip, including the activities of IDF forces and endangers our fighters,” Karhi said in a statement. “It is important to highlight that already last week a warning was made to the AP agency that according to the law and the government's decision they are prohibited from providing broadcasts to Al Jazeera, however they decided to continue broadcasting on the channel causing real damage to the security of the State.”

The confiscated equipment included a camera, tripod, two microphones and transmission equipment, the statement said.

Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders condemned Israel's decision to seize the equipment.

“After having banned Al Jazeera, Israel is attacking the PA,” he said in a statement. “RSF denounces the seizure of the media outlet’s camera and the interruption of the continuous transmission filming Gaza under the pretext that these images are provided, among others, to Al Jazeera.”

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid also denounced the seizure as “an act of madness”.

“This is not Al Jazeera, it is an American media outlet that has won 53 Pulitzer Prizes,” he said in a statement. “This government behaves as if it has decided to guarantee at any cost that Israel will be excluded from the entire world. They went crazy.”

Source: CNN Brasil

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