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Israel returns confiscated Associated Press equipment

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi to return the equipment the ministry had previously confiscated from the Associated Press (AP) following American pressure, according to the Israeli state-owned Kan TV news.

“Since the Defense Ministry wants to examine the issue of transmissions from these locations in Sderot regarding the risk to our forces, I have now ordered the cancellation of the operation and the return of the equipment to the AP,” Karhi was quoted by the Kan as saying.

Inspectors of the Israeli Communications Ministry on Tuesday confiscated photographic equipment and halted a live broadcast of the U.S.-based AP, Israeli state-owned Kan TV news reported.

The Israeli action was carried out in the southern city of Sderot, near the Gaza Strip, when the AP team was documenting the situation in Gaza amid the ongoing conflict.

According to the ministry, a new Israeli law enacted in early April grants the government the authority to bar the broadcasting of the Qatari news channel Al Jazeera in Israel.

The ministry said that AP violated the law by transferring the materials it filmed to Al Jazeera.

In response to the shutdown, AP said, “We strongly disavow the action of the Israeli government. The shutdown was not based on the content of the feed but on the government’s misuse of the new foreign broadcasting law.”

It also urged the Israeli authorities “to return our equipment and allow us to resume our live feed immediately so that we can continue to provide this important visual journalism to thousands of media outlets around the world.”

The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said that Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi did not inform the prime minister about the confiscation of the broadcast equipment from AP.

The White House expressed concern over Israel’s action against AP, adding that it believes journalists have the ability and right to do their jobs.

The Foreign Press Association in Israel said it is alarmed by Israel’s “outrageous move,” adding that “this is the latest in a series of chilling steps by the Israeli government to stifle the media. Israel’s move is a slippery slope.” ■

Famagusta Gazette