KSA: LBCI bureau closed in Al-Riyadh after Jeddah office shut down

The official spokesman for the Education and Information Ministry in Saudi Arabia, Abdul Rahman bin Abdul Aziz al-Hazaa, assured that the Lebanese Broadcasting Company's (LBCI) bureaus were closed in the Kingdom on orders of the vice-Prime Minister, Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz. He said the ministry's order came in coordination with the other emirates, and that both offices in al-Riyadh and Jeddah had been closed.
KSA Lbci

BEIRUT, Aug 13, 2009 (MENASSAT) — A sign was posted on the door of LBCI's building in Jeddeh saying, “closed upon the orders of the Ministry of Education and Information,” the Saudi newspaper al-Watan reported on Sunday.

According to Al-Hazaa, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) closed the station's bureau in Jeddah after the channel aired an interview with a Saudi citizen talking about his sexual experiences.

Mazen Abdul Jawad, 32, was arrested last month in Jeddah after he shocked Saudi Arabia by discussing his sexual activities on the show “Ahmar bil Khat al-Arid” ( Thick Red Line).

A divorced father of four, Abdul Jawad spoke to the camera from his bedroom in Jeddah about engaging in kinky sexual activities and his sexual experiences, in the Kingdom which prefers the world to believe that no one in the country has sex outside of marriage.

Al-Hazaa said that the authorities closed the LBCI bureau in Jeddah because of the above-mentioned interview, knowing that the criticism targeting the channel and the program was not based alone on the content that was aired.

According to what al-Hazaa told CNN, the bureau in Jeddah was closed for two reasons: “The channel doesn’t have a valid license and it violated the media policy of the Kingdom.”

Al-Watan newspaper quoted an informed source saying that the manager of the bureau and the officials in Jeddah were summoned before the investigation department.

On the other hand, the Chairman of LBCI, Pierre Daher told e-newspaper Anaween, “We will try to reopen LBCI bureau in Jeddah. Being responsible for the channel, we respect the closing decision in the KSA, and we know that the Saudi society has its habits and traditions.”

Al-Daher refused to comment on Mazen Abdul Jawad's case and the accusations, claiming instead that the channel didn’t have permission to air the controversial interview.

About 200 Saudi citizens filed a judicial complaint against Abdul Jawad, currently dubbed “the caller for vice,” in Saudi. The complaints came against the channel and its main shareholder, Prince al-Walid bin Talal whose losses will apparently not lead to the closing of the bureaus, while Abdul Jawad alone could face 20 years in prison or execution.

Al-Walid bin Talal, who has huge media investments around the world, was also criticized for trying to bring cinemas to the Kingdom. The closure of the bureaus will raise questions concerning the fate of media investments in the country. As for Abdul Jawad, who thought his statements on the Prince’s channel would be received as if they had been made on international TV, the citizens reminded him of the “red lines” he crossed in the KSA.