London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egypt’s military-backed interim government has come a step closer to banning the Al-Jazeera news network from the country after announcing that local affiliate, Al-Jazeera Mubashir Misr, is operating illegally.
Egypt’s ministers of investment, telecommunications and information issued a public statement on Thursday announcing that the Qatari channel has been banned from the country for using satellite transmitters without an official license. The channel was still being broadcast by the national Nilesat communications network on Thursday afternoon. Egypt will not be able to block the channel from the Arabsat communications satellite based out of Saudi Arabia.
The statement accused the channel of spreading lies and rumors damaging to Egyptian national security and unity. Al-Jazeera Mubashir Misr had come under intense criticism in the North African country for its perceived bias towards the Muslim Brotherhood.
The statement read: “Al-Jazeera Mubashir Misr does not have a legal basis for its presence in Egypt, and it has been shown that it does not possess any of the licenses and permits that it requires to conduct its operations on Egyptian territory.”
The decision to shut down the channel comes just one day after Al-Jazeera Mubashir Misr broadcast a video message from fugitive Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Mohamed El-Beltagy. Speaking from an unknown location, and with his trademark beard shaved off, Beltagy had criticized the interim Egyptian government, strongly denying accusations that the Muslim Brotherhood are a terrorist organization.
“Don’t be fooled by these lies and deceptions that aim to label us with terrorism, violence, [and] killing . . . at a time when the hands of the putschist regime are drowned in blood,” Al-Jazeera Mubashir Misr quoted him as saying. The fugitive Brotherhood leader was arrested earlier on Thursday in Giza governorate following a prolonged manhunt.
Egypt’s interim cabinet had tasked the ministers of information, telecommunications and investment with checking the channel’s legal status in Egypt.
Al-Jazeera Mubashir Misr’s offices in Cairo were shut down on July 3, 2013, shortly after deposed president Mohamed Mursi’s ouster. A number of Al-Jazeera Mubashir Misr staff were arrested, including managing director Ayman Gaballah.