Israeli communications minister orders return of seized camera equipment to AP

In this image from video, Israeli officials seize AP video equipment from an apartment block in Sderot, Southern Israel, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP)
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Updated 22 May 2024
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Israeli communications minister orders return of seized camera equipment to AP

  • Israeli officials seized the equipment after accusing the news organization of violating a new media law by providing images to Al Jazeera
  • The Biden administration, journalism organizations and an Israeli opposition leader put pressure on Netanyahu

JERUSALEM: Israel’s communications minister ordered the government to return seized camera equipment to The Associated Press after blocking its live video of Gaza earlier Tuesday.
Israeli officials seized the equipment after accusing the news organization of violating a new media law by providing images to Al Jazeera.
Israeli officials used the new law on May 5 to close down the offices of Qatar-based Al Jazeera, confiscating its equipment, banning its broadcasts and blocking its websites.
The Biden administration, journalism organizations and an Israeli opposition leader put pressure on the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after officials seizing the AP equipment.
Al Jazeera, which is based in Qatar, is one of thousands of AP customers, and it receives live video from AP and other news organizations.
“The Associated Press decries in the strongest terms the actions of the Israeli government to shut down our longstanding live feed showing a view into Gaza and seize AP equipment,” said Lauren Easton, vice president of corporate communications at the news organization. “The shutdown was not based on the content of the feed but rather an abusive use by the Israeli government of the country’s new foreign broadcaster law.”
Officials from the Communications Ministry arrived at the AP location in the southern town of Sderot on Tuesday afternoon and seized the equipment. They handed the AP a piece of paper, signed by Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, alleging it was violating the country’s foreign broadcaster law.
Karhi is the minister who later ordered the equipment to be returned.
Shortly before its equipment was seized on Tuesday, AP was broadcasting a general view of northern Gaza. The AP complies with Israel’s military censorship rules, which prohibit broadcasts of details like troop movements that could endanger soldiers. The live video has generally shown smoke rising over the territory.
The AP had been ordered verbally last Thursday to cease the live transmission, which it refused to do.
Israel’s opposition leader Yair Lapid called the move against AP “an act of madness.”
“This is not Al Jazeera. This is an American news outlet,” he said. “This government acts as if it has decided to make sure at any cost that Israel will be shunned all over the world.”
Karhi responded to Lapid that the law passed unanimously by the government states that any device used to deliver Al Jazeera content could be seized.
“We will continue to act decisively against anyone who tries to harm our soldiers and the security of the state, even if you don’t like it,” he wrote to Lapid on X.
When Israel closed down Al Jazeera’s offices earlier this month, media groups warned of the serious implications for press freedom in the country. The law gives Karhi, part of the hard-right flank of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, wide leeway to enforce it against other media.
“Israel’s move today is a slippery slope,” the Foreign Press Association said in a statement, warning that the law “could allow Israel to block media coverage of virtually any news event on vague security grounds.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the US was “looking into” what happened and that it was “essential” for journalists to be allowed to do their jobs.
Israel has long had a rocky relationship with Al Jazeera, accusing it of bias against the country, and Netanyahu has called it a “terror channel” that spreads incitement.
Al Jazeera is one of the few international news outlets that has remained in Gaza throughout the war, broadcasting scenes of airstrikes and overcrowded hospitals and accusing Israel of massacres. AP is also in Gaza.
During the previous Israel-Hamas war in 2021, the army destroyed the building housing AP’s Gaza office, claiming Hamas had used the building for military purposes. The AP denied any knowledge of a Hamas presence, and the army never provided any evidence to back up its claim.
The war in Gaza began with a Hamas attack in Israel that killed 1,200 people and saw 250 others taken hostage. More than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed since then, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between civilians and combatants in its count.


Palestinian guests of Custodian of Two Holy Mosques Program arrive in Makkah

Updated 1 min 8 sec ago
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Palestinian guests of Custodian of Two Holy Mosques Program arrive in Makkah

  • This year, program is hosting 3,322 pilgrims from 88 countries worldwide
  • Saudi Arabia will receive 2,000 more pilgrims from Palestine on Thursday 

RIYADH: 500 Palestinian pilgrims who are being hosted through the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Guests Program for Hajj, Umrah and Visit arrived in Makkah on Wednesday.

The Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance will receive 2,000 more pilgrims from Palestine on Thursday as part of the program, Saudi Press Agency reported. 

Palestinian pilgrims who are being hosted through the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Guests Program for Hajj, Umrah and Visit arrive in Makkah. (SPA)

The pilgrims expressed their thanks and appreciation to the Kingdom’s government for its interest in the Palestinian cause and for enabling them to perform Hajj through the program, SPA added.

This year, the program is hosting 3,322 pilgrims from 88 countries around the world.


Radio France fires comedian Guillaume Meurice over Netanyahu jokes

Updated 1 min 55 sec ago
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Radio France fires comedian Guillaume Meurice over Netanyahu jokes

  • Presenter had faced allegations of antisemitism; bosses accuse him of ‘repeated disloyalty’ and ‘serious misconduct’
  • Other employees say the decision to terminate his contract sets dangerous precedent that restricts freedom of expression

LONDON: French broadcaster Radio France has fired presenter Guillaume Meurice for “serious misconduct” after he made jokes about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The decision to terminate the 42-year-old comedian’s contract followed his suspension in early May over remarks he made made on Radio Inter, an affiliate of Radio France.

In an email to staff, Sibyle Veil, the president of Radio France, blamed a “repeated disloyalty towards the company” as the reason for the dismissal, and said “neither freedom of expression nor humor have ever been threatened.”

A joke Meurice made about Netanyahu during a live show in October sparked complaints from a European Jewish organization that accused him of inciting violence and spreading antisemitic sentiments. Arcom, the French media regulator, issued a warning over the incident.

The suspension of Meurice last month was criticized by union representatives and editorial staff at Radio Inter, who called a strike and demanded the decision be reversed because it could “create a serious precedent” that restricts “freedom of expression.”

In a message on social media, Meurice described his dismissal as the “end of a false suspense” and a “victory” for a campaign he largely attributed to the far right.


Houthis blamed for attack on cargo ship in Red Sea

Updated 7 min 47 sec ago
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Houthis blamed for attack on cargo ship in Red Sea

  • Vessel hit by small boat, ‘airborne projectile,’ maritime agencies say
  • Strike comes after US says it destroyed two anti-ship missile launchers in Houthi-controlled area

AL-MUKALLA: A commercial ship transiting the Red Sea was damaged on Wednesday in an attack by another vessel and a projectile thought to have been launched by the Houthi militia group, two UK maritime agencies said.

The UK Maritime Trade Operations said in an initial report that it received a message from the master of the cargo ship that it had sustained damage to its stern after being attacked by a small vessel about 66 nautical miles southwest of the port city of Hodeidah.

The smaller craft was “white in color and 5-7 meters in length. Authorities are investigating. Vessels are advised to transit with caution and report any suspicious activity,” it said.

In updates, the UKMTO said the ship was also struck by an “unknown airborne projectile,” was taking on water and not under the control of the crew.

A second maritime security service, Ambrey, identified the cargo ship as the Greek-owned Tutor and said it had suffered damage to its engine room.

While the Houthis did not immediately claim responsibility for the attack, Ambrey said the boat seemed to have been launched by the militia group from Yemen.

Over the past eight months, the Houthis have launched hundreds of ballistic missiles, drones and remote-controlled, explosive-laden boats at commercial and naval ships in international waters off Yemen and in the Indian Ocean, claiming their actions were intended to force Israel to end its war in Gaza.

But critics have said the group is taking advantage of the widespread condemnation of the killing of civilians in Gaza to shore up popular support while simultaneously recruiting and mobilizing fighters to attack the Yemeni government.

Wednesday’s attack came after the US Central Command said its forces had destroyed two anti-ship cruise missile launchers in a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen in the previous 24 hours.

US and UK forces conducted three airstrikes on Tuesday in Al-Salif district of Hodeidah province, according to Houthi media.

Meanwhile, the Houthis are coming under mounting pressure from around the world to free the scores of Yemeni employees of the UN and other foreign organizations who were abducted from their homes in Sanaa.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday that a WHO employee was among those being held.

“We are working closely with our UN counterparts to ensure their safety. We urge an immediate and unconditional release. Humanitarian workers must never be a target,” he said.

Yemen’s Minister of Human Rights Ahmed Arman told Arab News this week that Dr. Abdul Nasser Al-Rabai, an immunization officer for the WHO’s Yemen office, was abducted in a raid on his home.

Meanwhile, the son of Judge Abdul Wahab Qatran said on Facebook on Wednesday that his father had been released after being held by the Houthis for five months.

Mohammed Abdul Wahab Qatran posted a photograph of himself with his father and siblings but said the Houthis were still holding his father’s phones and other items taken during a raid on his home.

“My free and heroic father was freed this afternoon but he is unable to access all of his accounts since his phones and accounts are still with the intelligence services,” he said.

Qatran Sr. was abducted in January and charged with denigrating a Houthi leader and publishing false news.

The judge was known for criticizing the Houthis for human rights violations and failing to pay public workers. Shortly before his abduction he voiced sympathy for a journalist who was attacked and beaten by the militia in Sanaa.


Global businesses urged to acknowledge role in human development

Updated 12 min 1 sec ago
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Global businesses urged to acknowledge role in human development

RIYADH: Businesses worldwide must acknowledge their role in shaping human development, paralleling the responsibility of governments, said a top Saudi official.

During a panel discussion titled “Board of Changemakers: Invest in Dignity” at the Future Investment Initiative Priority Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the US Princess Reema bint Bandar emphasized the absence of a sense of collective impact on a global scale.

This observation coincides with ongoing geopolitical tensions such as the conflict in Gaza and the Russia-Ukraine tensions.

“If the business world fails to recognize its responsibility in shaping human development, akin to the responsibility of governments, we are all lost,” Princess Reema stated.

She stressed the importance of broadening the understanding of the beneficiaries of business activities, underscoring that social impact is as crucial as financial return.

“And I think we forget that we need to broaden our understanding of who is impacted by the work that we do, who is impacted by our gain, who is impacted by our profit,” she added.

Princess Reema highlighted that social stability and growth are prerequisites for sustainable business success.

“If we’re talking about investing in dignity, we have to invest in stability, we have to invest in growth, we have to invest an opportunity,” the Saudi envoy noted.

In another panel titled “Will Ascending Economic Powers Reshape the Future of Investment?” Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb discussed the Kingdom’s shift from an oil-centric focus to diversifying into sectors like tourism and mining, as outlined in Vision 2030.

Al-Khateeb outlined three essential pillars for this transformation: a clear vision for the future, leadership and commitment, and a long-term perspective.

“First, it requires a very clear vision for the future, and we have an amazing leader, the crown prince, who established this vision and second it requires a leadership and willingness and we are all, you know, fully committed to make this happen,” the minister said.

“And the third pillar is a long-term view, we must have a long-term view about the future. We must not just look at the short term rather than look at the long term.”

The summit, themed “Invest in Dignity,” aims to explore how investments in renewable energy, artificial intelligence, entrepreneurship, and social impact can prioritize human dignity in policymaking. Discussions also focus on safeguarding the dignity of all citizens as a fundamental goal for economic decision-makers.


Court acquits Turkish police of killing human rights lawyer

Updated 35 min 10 sec ago
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Court acquits Turkish police of killing human rights lawyer

  • Tahir Elci, a prominent campaigner for Kurdish rights, was shot dead on a city street on November 28, 2015, during a gunfight between outlawed Kurdish militants and police
  • The court ordered that three police officers be acquitted because of lack of evidence after a lengthy trial

DIYARBAKIR, Turkiye: A Turkish court on Wednesday acquitted three police officers nine years after the killing of a prominent rights lawyer in the Kurdish majority city of Diyarbakir.
Tahir Elci, a prominent campaigner for Kurdish rights, was shot dead on a city street on November 28, 2015, during a gunfight between outlawed Kurdish militants and police.
Elci, who was head of the Diyarbakir bar association, was cut down as he appealed for calm in the aftermath of the killing of two police officers by the PKK in a nearby street.
The court ordered that three police officers, who appeared before the court by video link, be acquitted because of lack of evidence after a lengthy trial. They stood accused of “causing death by foreseeable negligence” and faced up to six years in prison.
Amnesty International blasted the verdict as a “huge blow” to Elci’s family and the wider human rights community in Türkiye.
“The failure of the authorities to hold those responsible for his killing to account is a thorn in the heart of his loved ones and a stain on the justice system in Turkiye,” Amnesty’s deputy regional director for Europe Dinushika Dissanayake said in a statement.
Lawyers for Elci’s family had denounced multiple failures in the investigation as well as the destruction of evidence and successive changes of prosecutor in charge of the case.
The long-awaited trial opened in 2020, five years after the killing, after rights advocates including Human Rights Watch had criticized “extreme delays” in the case.
Elci’s death came after the collapse of a ceasefire between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is blacklisted as a terrorist group by Ankara and its Western allies.
In 2019, investigators from the London-based research agency Forensic Architecture published an in-depth report into the shooting, suggesting that security forces could have killed him.