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Israel government bars Al Jazeera from seminar on free speech

Netanyahu has reportedly taken legal steps to bar Al Jazeera journalists [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 September, 2017

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Israel's Government Press Office has reportedly banned Al Jazeera's Jerusalem bureau chief from attending a seminar on freedom of speech, as Netanyahu continues his clampdown on the news organisation.
Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has ordered the government press office to ban Al Jazeera's Jerusalem bureau chief from a state-sponsored seminar on 'freedom of speech' planned for Thursday, which cites the pan-Arab broadcaster as a case study.

Walid al-Omary's exclusion from attending a seminar titled "Limits of free expression: the dilemma between national security and freedom of the press — Al Jazeera as a case study," comes a month after Netanyahu threatened to shut the Qatar-based outlet's Israel offices.

The Government Press Office said on Thursday that the prime minister is still pushing to strip Al Jazeera reporters of their credentials and close their offices, but the move faces legal hurdles.

"The prime minister instructed that legal steps be taken to deny press passes of all Al Jazeera journalists working in Israel and to close their offices in Israel," the GPO announced in a Facebook post, reported Haaretz.

Israeli Communications Minister Ayoub Kara said last month that Al Jazeera would be banned from the country and the occupied territories.

The news agency's Jerusalem office would also be closed and channels' signals blocked, he added.

Israel also last month revoked the press credentials of Al Jazeera correspondent Elias Karram, accusing him of bias in his coverage after saying his work was "an integral part" of Palestinian resistance in an interview.

The GPO then deferred the suspension while Al Jazeera coverage continues to be monitored.

Amnesty International blasted Israel's press clampdown as a "brazen attack on media freedom", adding: "The move sends a chilling message that the Israeli authorities will not tolerate critical coverage."

Al Jazeera has in response said it will be taking appropriate legal action against Israel and denounced the country's claim of being the "Middle East's only democracy".

The broadcaster has been contacted for comment on Omary's ban.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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