Local rights group decries ban on Salafi satellite channel

A local rights organization urged Egypt on Monday to allow broadcast of a Salafi television channel on Egypt’s Nilesat satellite network that was blocked by authorities earlier this month.

In a statement, the Cairo-based Egyptian Organization for Human Rights said that halting transmission of the channel “constitutes a flagrant violation of the freedom of expression, which is upheld by the Egyptian Constitution and other international charters concerned with human rights."

Earlier this month, Egyptian authorities announced that transmission of Al-Badr channel–which adopts a strict Salafi line calling for the literal interpretation of Islamic texts–had been halted for violating broadcast regulations. The channel was accused of broadcasting material that "incited hatred against Christians."

The channel was blocked only days after Minister of Information Anas al-Fiqqi had instructed television officials to review the content of channels carried by Nilesat to ensure they were "in compliance with their contractual obligations."

Some critics, however, fear authorities will use the same pretext to ban channels and programs known to be critical of the Egyptian regime, especially now that parliamentary elections–slate for next month–are around the corner.

In late September, authorities closed down the Orbit satellite television network's studios in Egypt, saying the Saudi network had failed to meet its financial obligations to Egypt’s Media Production City. Orbit had broadcast a popular talk show–Al-Qahira Al-Youm, or "Cairo Today"–which had openly criticized prominent political figures in Egypt.

Egyptian security agencies have also reportedly urged the privately-owned ON TV satellite channel to halt broadcast of a political talk show presented by prominent independent journalist Ibrahim Eissa, also known for his vocal criticisms of the Egyptian regime.

In recent weeks, Salafis have organized a number of protests following the alleged conversion to Islam of the wife of a Minya bishop who they say is now being held against her will by the Coptic Church.

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