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Israel passes law to allow Al Jazeera news broadcast ban

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Jerusalem: Israeli lawmakers approved a law on Monday granting the government the authority to bar the broadcasting of the Qatari news channel Al Jazeera in Israel, a move Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would implement.

The bill was approved in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, with the support of 71 lawmakers, while 10 opposed it.

The new law, a copy of which was seen by Xinhua, grants the prime minister and communications minister the authority to order the cessation of broadcasts from a foreign channel operating in Israel if it is deemed to pose “a direct threat to national security.”

According to the law, the communications minister must convince the prime minister that “the content of a foreign channel directly threatens the country’s security” in order to obtain the latter’s approval to close its operation in Israel.

The law also allows the minister to shut down a foreign broadcaster’s office and confiscate its equipment upon a final decision from the security cabinet or the government to ban it.

Before the vote, Netanyahu said in a statement that he “will take immediate action to shut down Al Jazeera by the procedure set out in the law.” He said that the channel “will no longer broadcast from Israel, and it is time to expel the Hamas mouthpiece from Israel.”

Israel has long accused Al Jazeera of having close ties with Hamas, which the channel denies, and a pro-Palestinian stance in its coverage of Israel’s actions in the occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank.

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