CAIRO (AFP) – Egypt has ordered a shutdown of Al Jazeera’s operations, the official MENA news agency said Sunday, after the pan-Arab television channel gave blanket coverage to ongoing anti-government protests.
Outgoing information minister Anas al-Fikki has “ordered the closure of all activities by Al Jazeera in the Arab republic of Egypt and the annulment of its licences,” the news agency reported.
The press credentials of all Al Jazeera employees in Egypt were also being withdrawn, it added.
Satellite broadcasts by Qatar-based Al Jazeera were still being received in Cairo when the announcement was made.
Reacting swiftly to the news, Al Jazeera said the shutdown — on day six of often violent street protests against President Hosni Mubarak’s regime — was aimed at “censoring and silencing the voices of the Egyptian people.”
“Al Jazeera sees this as an act designed to stifle and repress the freedom of reporting by the network and its journalists,” it said in a statement.
“In this time of deep turmoil and unrest in Egyptian society, it is imperative that voices from all sides be heard,” it said.
“The closing of our bureau by the Egyptian government is aimed at censoring and silencing the voices of the Egyptian people,” it added, pledging to continue its coverage.
“Al Jazeera assures its audiences in Egypt and across the world that it will continue its in-depth and comprehensive reporting on the events unfolding in Egypt,” it said.
“Al Jazeera Network is appalled at this latest attack by the Egyptian regime to strike at its freedom to report independently on the unprecedented events in Egypt,” it added.
More than 100 people have been killed since protests against Mubarak’s regime — triggered by unrest in Tunisia — erupted last Tuesday. While he has moved to change his government, the president is defying calls to stand down.