After the advent of democracy, and the revelations of brutality laid bare at South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, some of our white compatriots claimed to have been unaware of the extent of the barbarity because they had been shielded from the truth by state censorship.

As a strategy, however, censorship failed to contain the truth seeping out, and South Africa being regarded as the skunk of the world.

Yet that appears to be the model the State of Israel has embraced by banning Al Jazeera ahead of its plan to escalate the violence in Gaza by invading Rafah.

Israel’s contempt of journalists and free speech will not stop the demand for justice for Palestinians.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, as of 3 May 2024, at least 97 journalists has been killed in Palestine since 7 October, four were missing and 25 had been injured.

Now Israel is tightening the screws on press freedom, announcing that Al Jazeera is to be closed down in Israel.

With Gaza under a blockade, preventing international journalists from entering and reporting from the territory, Al Jazeera journalists have played a critical role getting news from the ground in Gaza to the outside world, including to Israelis. Largely due to its journalists, the world has been able to witness Israel’s genocidal actions at close quarters.

Israel’s war on Gaza, in retaliation to Hamas’ invasion last October – in which approximately 1200 Israelis died and 250 were taken hostage – has thus far claimed the lives of approximately 35 000 Palestinians, while destroying most Gazan infrastructure. 

According to the World Food Programme, starvation is already entrenched in northern Gaza and “moving its way south”.

Shutting Al Jazeera down now, on the eve of Israel’s stated plan to invade the southern Palestine city of Rafah – where more than a million Palestinians from the north have sought shelter – is tantamount to spitting in the face of the global effort for a secession of hostilities and negotiations toward a sustainable solution.

As organisations representing the legacies of iconic South Africans once demonised by media for prosecuting the anti-apartheid struggle, we call on the people of Israel to defend journalism and reject censorship.

It is critical for the people of Palestine and Israel to see the humanity in each other. Censorship deliberately denies this opportunity.

We call for ceasefire and negotiations towards a settlement that creates sustainable peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Signed by:

Dr Mamphela Ramphele
Chairperson of the Archbishop Tutu IP Trust;


Mr Neeshan Balton
Executive Director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation