London, Asharq Al-Awsat—A Cairo court on Tuesday ordered Al-Jazeera’s Egyptian channel, Mubasher Misr, taken off air, in addition to banning the Al-Yarmouk, Al-Quds, and Ahrar 25 television channels.
The four television channels banned by the court are widely regarded as being pro-Islamist and have come under increased pressure from Egypt’s military-backed interim government following the decision to remove Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohamed Mursi in July
The Cairo Administrative Court’s decision comes after Egypt’s ministers of investment, telecommunications, and information issued a public statement last week announcing that Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr was operating in the country illegally and did not possess a satellite transmission license. The ministers also accused the channel of spreading lies and rumors and damaging Egyptian national security and unity.
The three other channels banned in the Cairo court’s decision include a channel affiliated with the Palestinian Hamas group, and an Islamist network based in Jordan. Ahrar 25 is affiliated to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood organization and was established after Egyptian authorities shut down the Brotherhood’s official Misr 25 television channel in the wake of Mursi’s ouster.
Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr has challenged Cairo’s claims that it was operating in the country illegally, publishing what it claimed was an operations license from the Egyptian government. Following this move, the Doha-based network issued a statement on Sunday expressing concern over alleged harassment of staff members by the Egyptian authorities, citing the detention of journalists and the seizure of broadcast equipment.
Abdullah El-Shami, a broadcaster for Al-Jazeera’s Arabic channel, has been detained by the Egyptian authorities since August 14. Cameraman Mohamed Badr has also been held for more than a month.
Three foreign Al-Jazeera reporters were also reported to have been deported from Egypt on Sunday after being caught covering political events without the required permits. Al-Jazeera revealed that the three journalists were correspondent Wayne Hay, cameraman Adil Bradlow, and producer Russ Finn.
In an Al-Jazeera report on the arrests, the Qatar-based channel said “there has been a campaign against Al-Jazeera in particular,” adding, “Al-Jazeera calls for the Egyptian authorities to release all our staff unconditionally along with their belongings and equipment.”
Al-Jazeera accused the Egyptian government of attempting to jam the Mubasher Misr signal starting seven weeks ago, long before any official move to declare the channel illegal. Al-Jazeera’s head of teleport, Ibrahim Nasser, informed Britain’s Guardian newspaper that it had pinpointed four different locations as the source of jamming. He claimed that Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr had been subject to jamming every day between 7 am and midnight since 5 July, just days after Mursi’s ouster.
At the time of publication, Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr was off air on Egypt’s national Nilesat communications network, but could still be viewed in the country via the Arabsat communications satellite.