Israeli communications minister orders return of seized AP video equipment

Israeli communications minister orders return of seized AP video equipment

Israel's communications minister ordered the government to return a camera and broadcasting equipment it had seized from The Associated Press, reversing course hours after blocking the news organisation's live video of Gaza.

The government seized the AP equipment from a location in southern Israel after accusing it of violating a new media law by providing images to the satellite channel Al Jazeera.

Israeli officials used the new law on May 5 to close down Qatar-based Al Jazeera within Israel, confiscating its equipment, banning its broadcasts and blocking its websites.

After Israel seized the AP equipment, the Biden administration, journalism organisations and an Israeli opposition leader condemned the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and pressured it to reverse the decision.

“I have now ordered to cancel the action and return the equipment to the AP,” Israel's communications minister, Shlomo Karhi, said on the social platform X.

Karhi said the defense ministry will undertake a review of news outlets' positioning of live video of Gaza. Officials hadn't previously told AP the positioning of its live camera was an issue. Instead, they repeatedly noted that the images appeared in real-time on Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera is one of the thousands of AP customers, and it receives live video from AP and other news organisations.

“While we are pleased with this development, we remain concerned about the Israeli government’s use of the foreign broadcaster law and the ability of independent journalists to operate freely in Israel," said Lauren Easton, vice president of corporate communications at the news organisation.

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 Karhi, alleging it was violating the country’s foreign broadcaster law.