Canadian Media has Ignored Israel’s Plan to Ban Al Jazeera
On August 6, Israel’s communications minister, Ayoub Kara, announced that the government decided to close Al Jazeera’s office in Jerusalem, revoke media credentials for all of its journalists, and work with satellite and cable companies to prevent TV broadcasts from airing.
Though the Israeli government enjoys erroneously claiming that it is the only democracy in the Middle East, Kara stated that the decision was modeled on other states in the region, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Jordan. Kara also claimed that Al Jazeera is responsible for inciting violence in Israel.
Writing in Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Nati Tucker claims that banning Al Jazeera won’t be easy, and the bodies in charge of doing so “give no indication of complying.”
Regardless, the ban has been met with condemnation from human rights and press freedom groups around the world. Amnesty International’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director, Magdalena Mughrabi, issued a statement claiming, “This is a brazen attack on media freedom in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The move sends a chilling message that the Israeli authorities will not tolerate critical coverage.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists’ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator, Sherif Mansour, wrote, “Censoring Al-Jazeera or closing its offices will not bring stability to the region, but it would put Israel firmly in the camp of some of the region’s worst enemies of press freedom.”
The Ethical Journalism Network’s director, Aidan White, claimed, “It is a shocking statement, and it completely undermines Israel’s claims to be the only democracy in the region, because it gets to the heart of one of the most important institutions of democracy.”
How has Canadian Media Responded?
It has been over a week since Kara made the statement, and there has been little coverage in Canadian media.
I’ve scanned through articles published since then on the websites for The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, National Post, Montreal Gazette, and Ottawa Citizen. Between these six publications, there were only three unique articles published, all wire copy from the Associated Press. The Post published all three articles, the Star, the Globe, and the Gazette just one. The Sun and Citizen failed to publish any.
There were no non-wire news articles published, no columns or op-eds, and no editorials.
Why is This a Bad Thing?
On a general level, journalists should be concerned with the state of press freedom throughout the world, not just in their own state.
Some may say that Canadian media can’t dedicate a great deal of coverage to the state of press freedom everywhere in the world. This is true, and certainly not every country is covered in the Canadian media, although they have managed to somehow dedicate enough of their budget to meticulously covering free press violations in states that are unfriendly with Canada. Yet Israel is an exception, and there are unique circumstances in place that should require Canadian media to delve into the issue.
Canadian media outlets have often parroted Israeli propaganda when discussing the state. For example, Canadian media outlets have uncritically labelled Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East. When Israel was raining bombs on Gaza, or terrorizing its population on the ground, Canadian media portrayed the state as a civilized nation fighting against barbarians, upholding the values of Western society.
Israel unjustifiably avoids being chastised for war crimes and human rights violations because of its supposed track record on issues such as freedom of the press. As such, Canadian media has a duty to report on, and denounce, what is a very clear example of this freedom being stripped within the state.
If Israel is seen as being an ally to Western states, it deserves to, at the very least, be scrutinized when it violates what are defined as Western values. It deserves extra criticism in fact, because of how often these outlets have defended it based on its supposed freedoms. If it does not receive this scrutiny, than Canadian media is just mimicking the Canadian government’s stance on Israel.
It’s also worth noting that these outlets find time to publish countless opinion pieces, and sometimes editorials, on the supposed threat to free speech posed by BDS and Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW.) Yet a move to limit freedom of the press taken by a state, the most dangerous form of cracking down on free speech, somehow fails to be important enough for them to write about. This exposes how the concern with BDS and IAW has more to do with not wanting Israel to face due criticism, as opposed to any sort of objective principles.
I will continue monitoring coverage of this issue from Canadian media outlets, and update the post if there are any notable developments.