EGYPT: Speculations grow around the ban of Iranian TV channel
The recent barring of Iran's Arabic-speaking news channel, al-Alam, or the World, from two Egyptian and Arabic satellite companies has prompted a number of contradicting suggestions over the motives behind the decision.
Both satellite companies -- the Egyptian-owned Nilesat and the Saudi-managed Arabsat -- ended the World's broadcast signal last week without warning.
Nilesat's executive director, Ahmed Anis, announced that the broadcasting was cut due to contract violations. But the head of the World's bureau in Cairo said he was informed by Nilesat officials that the decision came from a higher Egyptian government authority.
A statement sent by Arabsat to the World indicated the satellite company had received complaints that the channel was airing content that did not follow the region's religious and political values. Arabsat added that the World had also defamed a number of top Arab officials. Arab capitals, most notably Cairo and Riyadh, have been increasingly concerned about Iran's widening influence across the Middle East.
Some Egyptian sources suggested the World's support for the Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen may have angered Saudi officials, who, in accordance with Nilesat administrators, agreed to stop the channel's signal from reaching millions of Sunni Muslim Arabs throughout the region.
Saudi warplanes and troops have been clashing with Houthi insurgents on the Saudi-Yemeni border since last week. Yemen, a Saudi ally, claims the rebels are receiving aid from Shiite-dominated Iran. Yemen has offered no direct evidence of a Houthi-Iran connection, and the rebels have denied receiving help from Tehran.
Egyptian authorities temporarily shut down the World's Cairo bureau in July 2008 after a lawyer filed a lawsuit against the channel following a documentary about late President Anwar Sadat, who was vilified by Iran for signing a peace treaty with Israel. The channel went on to broadcast via a private Egyptian company.
The World, which was founded in 2003, is based in Tehran and managed by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photo: Al Alam TV logo. Credit: Al Youm Al Sabee