Israel’s seizure of AP equipment is censorship, plain and simple

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President Biden and President Netanyahu stand facing each other, with Netanyahu's hand on Biden's harm, in front of two American flags and one Israeli flag.

President Joe Biden, pictured here with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel in 2016, should condemn Israel’s seizure of equipment from The Associated Press and demand its immediate return. Vice President Joe Biden visit to Israel March 2016 by U.S. Embassy Jerusalem is licensed under CC BY 2.0.


Israel must immediately return camera and broadcasting equipment belonging to The Associated Press that it seized earlier today, and the Biden administration must strongly condemn Israel’s escalation of its attacks on the free press.

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“If Israel wants to claim the mantle of ‘the only democracy in the Middle East,’ it needs to act like it. Banning broadcasters because Israel disagrees with their coverage is the hallmark of an authoritarian state, not a democracy. Seizing equipment from the AP just for supplying a news outlet with video footage is disgraceful,” said Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) Deputy Advocacy Director Caitlin Vogus.

In April, Israel passed a new censorship law that allows its government to ban foreign media organizations, a move that many saw as a transparent attempt to silence Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera and its coverage of the Israel-Gaza war. Weeks later, Israel used the law to ban Al Jazeera and raid its offices in Jerusalem.

At the time, FPF warned that the law was a pretext for silencing criticism of the war and that Israel wouldn’t limit its use to Al Jazeera.

Now, Israel has seized equipment from the AP, one of the world’s largest news agencies, after accusing it of violating the foreign media law by providing a live video feed of northern Gaza to Al Jazeera, as the AP does for thousands of other clients.

“All Americans should be outraged that Israel seized equipment from a U.S. news outlet and stopped it from broadcasting video footage of Gaza. Israel’s actions against the AP strip millions of people of a view into Gaza at a time of war and mass atrocities,” said Vogus. “President Joe Biden must condemn Israel’s seizure of the AP’s equipment and insist on its immediate return. While he’s at it, President Biden should demand Israel stop killing journalists in Gaza and allow foreign journalists into Gaza to report.”

“Israel is going after The Associated Press for doing exactly what it’s supposed to do: provide truthful information to the world,” said FPF Advocacy Director Seth Stern. “A few weeks ago, Israel banned Al Jazeera. Today, it seized AP equipment and stopped its video feed from Gaza. What news outlet will be the next target?” Stern added.

“If it wasn’t already clear, Israel’s seizure of the AP’s equipment proves that laws that give the government the power to ban media outlets in the name of ‘national security’ can and will be abused to go after any member of the press that the government dislikes,” said Stern. “The U.S. should take note of how quickly Israel began abusing its foreign media law and stop passing its own laws empowering the government to shut down or censor the media, like the purported TikTok ban which actually opens the door to broad censorship of online news.”

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