Israel Says It Will Return Camera Equipment Seized From The AP

Israel says it will return a camera and broadcasting equipment it had seized from The Associated Press this week after the country’s government faced mounting criticism from media groups.

On Tuesday afternoon, Israeli authorities confiscated a camera and broadcasting kit belonging to The Associated Press in a location in Southern Israel.

The incident, which was captured in footage, took place at the American agency’s location in the town of Sderot on the Gaza border — from where The Associated Press has provided a near-constant live picture of the border with northern Gaza throughout the war.

Officials from the Israeli communications ministry arrived at The Associated Press’ offices in the southern Israeli border town and seized the equipment. They handed the news agency a piece of paper, signed by the communications minister Shlomo Karhi alleging that it had violated a new media law by providing images to the Al Jazeera news station.

Earlier this month, Israel banned Al Jazeera news station from operating inside Israel and forced it to close its offices in the country, accusing it of endangering national security.

Al Jazeera is among thousands of clients that receive live video feeds from The Associated Press. But Israeli authorities claimed that The Associated Press’ feed was illegally being provided to Al Jazeera and claimed that it was showing the activities of its soldiers and threatening their lives.

However, hours later, the Israeli government reversed its decision. Communications minister Karhi ordered that the confiscated camera equipment be returned to The Associated Press, pending a decision by the Ministry of Defence, which he says wished to examine the issue.

It is not yet clear when the equipment will be given back to the news agency.

The seizure of camera kit had prompted a wave of criticism from media organizations and politicians — with The Foreign Press Association describing the confiscation as “the latest in series of chilling steps by the Israeli government to stifle the media.”

On Tuesday, The White House also said that the incident was concerning and that U.S. journalists had the right to do their jobs.

“As soon as we learned about the reports, the White House and the State Department immediately engaged with the government of Israel at high levels to express our serious concern and ask them to reverse this action,” Adrienne Watson, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, says.

“The free press is an essential pillar of democracy and members of the media, including The Associated Press, do vital work that must be respected.”