Amnesty International on Monday joined in on the criticism of Israel's decision to close the offices of Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera, calling it "a brazen attack on media freedom".
"The move sends a chilling message that the Israeli authorities will not tolerate critical coverage," Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at the London-based group, said in a statement quoted by AFP.
"This is a brazen attack on media freedom in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories," she added, urging Israel to "halt any attempt to silence critical media".
Mughrabi said that that "all journalists should be free to carry out their work without facing harassment or intimidation".
Communications Minister Ayoob Kara (Likud) announced on Sunday that, while his ministry would work to protect freedom of the press, it would not permit media outlets to threaten Israel’s security. He noted Al-Jazeera’s role in promoting incitement against Israel following the July 14 terror attack on the Temple Mount which left two Israeli officers dead.
Kara’s announcement came after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pledged last week to work to remove the Qatari network from Israel due to incitement.
The move drew criticism from Al-Jazeera, which took the opportunity to launch a scathing attack on Israeli democracy, referring to the Jewish state as “a country that claims to be the only democracy in the Middle East.”
Amnesty’s statement came hours after the leftist organization the Association for Civil Rights in Israel accused Israel of declaring war against freedom of expression.
Banning Al-Jazeera over its anti-Israel incitement, the ACRI claimed, was tantamount to a “declaration of war”.
While Al-Jazeera’s coverage of events in Israel has drawn accusations of anti-Semitism and pro-Islamist incitement, even Arab states hostile to Israel have slammed the Qatari-controlled network and its reporting.
The network has acted as the de facto state mouthpiece of the Qatari government, promoting radical Islamist groups supported by Qatar, like the Muslim Brotherhood.
In June, four Arab states severed relations with Qatar over its support for terror. One of their demands to end the crisis was that Qatar shut down Al-Jazeera.