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Israel seizes AP camera equipment in violation of 'Al Jazeera Law' and reverses decision hours later following escalating criticism

Al Jazeera broadcast (Photo: Screenshot)

Israeli officials on Tuesday seized camera and broadcasting equipment belonging to the Associated Press that was being used to broadcast live footage of Gaza. 

The officials accused the Associated Press (AP) crew of violating the so-called “Al Jazeera Law” because the news outlet provides footage to the Al Jazeera network, whose broadcasting rights have been revoked in Israel. 

The AP protested the move, saying that thousands of news clients receive their video feeds. 

“The Associated Press decries in the strongest terms the actions of the Israeli government to shut down our longstanding live feed showing a view into Gaza and seize AP equipment,” said Lauren Easton, vice president of AP's Corporate Communications.

The Al Jazeera Law, which was passed by the Knesset just before its spring recess, is a temporary measure that gives the Israeli government authority to prevent foreign news companies from broadcasting in Israel if it is deemed a threat to national security. 

Al Jazeera’s broadcasting rights in Israel were revoked two weeks ago for 45 days and can be extended by the Knesset or terminated. 

Israel’s Communications Ministry issued a statement saying it had previously warned the AP it was not allowed to provide broadcast footage to Al Jazeera and accusing the crew of “trying to track the activities” of IDF troops in Gaza. 

“After being warned, the Ministry of Communications confiscated a camera belonging AP news agency that was broadcasting while trying to track the activities of our forces, and transferring the footage to the Al Jazeera station, in violation of the law,” the ministry said. 

“Communications Ministry personnel had already warned the AP agency last week that according to the law and the government’s decision, they are not allowed to provide broadcasts to Al Jazeera. However, AP decided to continue broadcasting on the channel, which causes great harm to national security,” the statement added. 

Israeli news channel N12 News said that it had reviewed the footage provided to Al Jazeera and found no evidence of tracking IDF movement. 

The AP also responded to the claim that they had violated the law.

"The AP complies with Israel's military censorship rules, which prohibit the broadcast of details such as soldiers' movements, which could endanger them. The live broadcast usually shows smoke rising from the area.” 

Easton argued the seizure was “abuse” and called on Israeli authorities to return the seized equipment. 

“The shutdown was not based on the content of the feed but rather an abusive use by the Israeli government of the country’s new foreign broadcaster law. We urge the Israeli authorities to return our equipment and enable us to reinstate our live feed immediately so we can continue to provide this important visual journalism to thousands of media outlets around the world,” Easton stated. 

The White House called the seizure of the equipment "concerning" and reportedly called on Israel to return the equipment.

Later on Tuesday night, amid escalating criticism and direct appeals from the White House, Israeli officials backtracked the decision and agreed to return the equipment to the AP. The decision to reverse course was made just hours after the equipment was confiscated.

“I have ordered the cancellation of the operation and the return of the equipment,” Israeli Minister of Communications Shlomo Karhi announced.

Karhi stated that Israel's Defense Ministry intended to assess the security risks posed by the broadcasts.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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