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Egypt’s Al Jazeera ban shows channel’s key role

Egypt’s Al Jazeera ban shows channel’s key role

Egypt shuts down Al Jazeera operations; Move follows closing down Internet, cutting phones; Qatari channel has led coverage of Arab uprisings.

January 31, 2011 5:13 by


Having ignored the protests for five days, Egyptian state TV has now focused on the disorder that erupted after security forces withdrew from streets on Friday rather than the protests. On Sunday state TV — which like other Arab official outlets has tried to modernise to keep up with the Qatari trend-setter — sniped against the station saying only a handful of protesters were in central Cairo.

Yet, Al Jazeera continued to carry live images of crowds on Tahrir, using a still camera fixed above the square. It also has a live channel which Egypt tried to block on its Nilesat satellite last week.

“We should have taken steps before with this channel since it has caused more destruction than Israel for Egypt,” governor of Minya province, Ahmed Diaeddin, raged on state TV. “I call for the trial of Al Jazeera correspondents as traitors.” Salah Issa, editor the state-owned weekly al-Qahira, said Islamists often said to dominate Al Jazeera’s editorial line were driven by a vendetta against Mubarak.

“It’s managers think they are creating a revolution, first in Tunisia, now in Egypt,” he said.

Saudi-owned Al Arabiya has been more conservative in covering the Arab uprisings — less proactive in covering the protests in the early stage and quicker to promote a return to stability once concessions are offered.

As’ad AbuKhalil, a politics professor in the United States, wrote on his popular site that Egyptian and Saudi media were both trying to discredit the protest movement.

“House of Saud’s propaganda is on over-drive. They are really trying hard to discredit the protests in Egypt,” he said, citing a headline in Saudi-owned daily Asharq al-Awsat “Egypt mutilates itself”.

(By Andrew Hammond. Editing by Samia Nakhoul/Maria Golovnina)

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