Babylon & Beyond

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EGYPT: A blow to Arab satellite media

February 14, 2008 |  9:44 am

Jazeera_2 Arab foreign ministers passed a resolution that imposed a list of restrictions on satellite television channels.

The resolution sponsored by Egypt and Saudi Arabia says that satellite channels should not affect "social peace, national unity, the public order,” “Arab morals” and “the highest interests of the Arab world.”

Egyptian Information Minister Anas El Fiqqi says the resolution is not intended to restrict the satellite media, but rather to set norms for regulating them.

Yet the minister's statement fell short of convincing journalists, who contend that the governments are seeking to tighten their grip over the growing satellite media, which have been moving ahead with breaking political taboos. All Arab countries except Qatar accepted the resolution.

“Qatar thinks that this resolution should be referred to legal and legislative bodies in Arab countries before accepting it because the freedom of the media should not be restricted,” said Mohammed El Malky, Qatar’s acting ambassador in Cairo, as quoted in the local press.

Qatar is the host of the influential Al Jazeera news channel, which has upset many Arab governments with its critical reporting.

In Egypt, journalists think that one of the main objectives of the resolution is to put a curb on Egyptian current affairs shows that have contributed immensely to raising the level of political criticism in recent years.

Prominent commentator Mohammed Sayed Said put it this way in the Al-Badeel daily: "What was required from those poor ministers was to close the half-open window that helped people listen to free opinions during the last few months or years.”

— Noha El-Hennawy in Cairo

Photo: Al Jazeera and other independent-minded news channels are the targets of a new agreement between Arab countries. Credit: aljazeera.net