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EGYPT: Human rights group demands government reopen Al Jazeera bureau

Human rights officials have denounced the Egyptian government shutdown of Arab satellite network Al Jazeera's Cairo bureau Sunday and are demanding the bureau be allowed to reopen.

Officials at New York-based Human Rights Watch called Al Jazeera's coverage of opposition protests "invaluable" in a Sunday statement and said the government clearly was attempting to limit public awareness of political unrest.

"Measures to close down the transmission of information to the public violate the basic right to access to information," the statement said.

It was not clear what effect the shutdown would have on Al Jazeera's coverage Sunday. The network continued to post live video feeds from Tahrir Square on its website as well as dispatches from reporters in the streets.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch Middle East and North Africa director, said the shutdown is a sign of the times in Egypt but is not likely to limit coverage of the protests.

"Shutting down Al Jazeera is a sign of just how desperate the government has become to cut Egyptians off from news, information and communication," Whitson said. "But like all its other efforts to rein in access to information, this too seems destined to fail, as the world continues to hear and watch Egyptians demanding their freedom."

Earlier this month, Al Jazeera led coverage of a Tunisian uprising that toppled Zine el Abidine ben Ali, even though it was already banned from the North African country.

The Egyptian government has had a tense relationship with the Qatar-based channel since it started in 1996, but Egyptian officials had never tried to shut down its local bureau.

Coverage of the protests varied on other networks.

Egyptian state television focused on the disorder that erupted after police withdrew from the streets on Friday, rather than protests, downplaying the crowd numbers reported by Al Jazeera.

Some local leaders blamed Al Jazeera for overplaying the protests and inciting anti-government violence.

“We should have taken steps before with this channel since it has caused more destruction than Israel for Egypt,” governor of Minya province, Ahmed Diaeddin, ranted on state TV. “I call for the trial of Al Jazeera correspondents as traitors.”

Salah Issa, editor the state-owned weekly al-Qahira, said Islamists with a vendetta against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak dominate Al Jazeera.

“Its managers think they are creating a revolution, first in Tunisia, now in Egypt,” he told Reuters.

As'ad AbuKhalil, a political professor at Cal State Stanislaus and visiting professor at UC Berkeley, wrote on his popular "Angry Arab" blog that Egyptian and Saudi media were trying to discredit the protest movement.

House of Saud's propaganda is on over-drive," he wrote. "They are really trying hard to discredit the protests in Egypt,” he said, citing a headline in Saudi-owned daily Asharq al-Awsat “Egypt mutilates itself.”


Al Jazeera officials vow to continue despite shutdown of Cairo bureau

— Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Photo: Al-Jazeera journalists gather at the pan-Arab television channel's bureau in Cairo on Sunday, January 30.  Credit: Mohammed Abed / AFP/Getty Images

Comments () | Archives (5)

Yes mac. It's more likely that independent media like Israeli and American media are closer to the truth.

So the human rights groups are demanding the govt to re -establish Al-Jezeera! I was not aware that these human rights groups, have the mental capacity for intelligent reasoning. The country is undergoing a revolution and these clowns want the govt to open up communications with a rogue station?

Why were these human rights clowns proactive?

Why do the uninformed like @mac insist on sharing their opinions?
"Probably"...Al Jazeera is doing a bang up job, Traffic is up 2500% over the Egyptian Revolution. They are the only news that covered the Tunisian uprising until it was almost over. You cannot get the truth, or the whole truth from MSNBC, FOX, or CNN. I have learned a lot from the Angry Arab's blog: snarky biting commentary.

Today 1/30/11 @ 7:00pm CST thet topic on internet radio show
"Center Stage" is "EGYPT: Evolution or Revolution." This will be
an open line dialog about the conditions in EGYPT, we want to hear
what you think @ , call in @
(347) 850-8390.

Al Jazeera as with many other sources of "news" from the area is probably not very close to what ever the truth may be.


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