Al-Baraka TV, First victim of the Arab charter?



 
The closure of the Islamic TV station al-Baraka by the Egyptian authorities is seen as a test-case for the implementation of the controversial Arab charter for satellite TV, MENASSAT reports from Cairo.
 
By AMIRA AL-TAHHAWI
 
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The Arab charter has been widely condemned as an attempt to bring satellite TV into the realm of state censorship. R.R.

CAIRO, Feb. 27, 2008 (MENASSAT) – The viewers of al-Baraka satellite TV were astonished when the station suddenly went of the air without any prior notice last Tuesday afternoon. No less surprised were the station's employees and management; they had received no notification from Nile Sat , the broadcasting company, about any interruption.

Officially, the station was taken off the air because of some missing documents. If it fails to get its paperwork in order, the station might be closed permanently. But observers are saying that al-Baraka might well be the first victim of the controversial Arab satellite TV charter that was signed by the Arab League's Information Ministers earlier this month.

Islamic

Al-Baraka is part of the al-Nas TV bouquet, which has five other channels all belonging to the Saudi Holding Company. It is owned by a number of religious Muslim personalities, who have described its mission as "the first step of a comprehensive system aiming to address different categories of viewers in order to spread awareness concerning the Islamic economy, its laws and values."

Al-Baraka began its trial period in March 2007, and started officially broadcasting on July 21, 2007 amid a huge ceremony attended by a wide Muslim audience.

The channel discusses economic and social issues and describes itself as "the first Arab business channel based on Islamic values, concerned with citizens' affairs in the Middle East and the world, and aiming to help people reach higher living standards."

Officials at al-Baraka the channel were stupefied by the sudden closure. Tariq Abdul Jaber, one of the station's anchors, declared that the story about the missing paperwork was only an excuse – the necessary steps to get the paperwork in order have already been taken –, and that al-Baraka is being used as a test-case to gauge the reactions of other channels to the implementation of the Arab satellite TV charter.

Censorship

The charter, officially entitled "Suggested Guidelines and Principles for Organizing Satellite TV in the Arab World," was signed by the Arab Ministers of Information in Cairo on February 12. It aims to regulate the work of some 500 TV channels currently broadcasting via the Arab Sat and Nile Sat satellites.

The document lists a number of requirements – including "not to offend the leaders or national and religious symbols in the Arab world" – that TV stations have to meet in order to qualify for a license. It is appended automatically  to all existing broadcasting agreements, including those pertaining to stations based in the so-called "free media zones."

The document has been described by press freedom organizations as a means to limit the freedom of the pan-Arabic satellite TV stations which have so far been relatively free of state censorship.

Sources at Nile Sat said that the interruption of al-Baraka was a result of a discrepancy in the license, which was issued under the name "al-Baraka" whereas the station actually broadcasts as "al-Baraka al-Iktissadiya" (al-Baraka business channel).

According to Abdul Hamid Tawfiq, the channel's managing director, the authorities have allowed three days for the station to finish all legal procedures or be permanently shut down.

Tawfic demanded that the authorities disclose the true reasons behind the station's closure, and wondered out loud why the authorities had suddenly remembered the missing documents. "Why at this particular time?"

The managing director denounced the sudden interruption of al-Baraka, adding that the channel does not concern itself with politics.




About al-Baraka:

According to its website, al-Baraka is "a business, trade, society and development channel, the first step of a comprehensive system aiming to address different categories of viewers in order to spread awareness concerning the Islamic economy, its laws and values. It "treats economical issues from a wide perspective, where it doesn't stress on the "gain and loss" aspects solely, but goes beyond them to treat the wider concept of trade and its influence on economical development, the society and its productivity." The channel "aims towards combining media and advertising in a new creative and harmonious way that would truly make it a channel for shopping, advertising and education."

Also read:

Arab Ministers finally agree - on limiting press freedom
Posted on 02/15/2008 - 18:40
Slowly, the word is getting out. In Cairo, last week, Arab ministers have finally agreed on something. It seems there is way too much freedom in the Arab world, and the Arab League is going to do something about it – starting with pan-Arabic satellite TV, which has eluded state censorship for too long.