Arab states’ guidelines for sat TV coverage of religion

March 19, 2008

Satellite dishes in Algiers, 3 April 2004/Jack DabaghianArab Media and Society has published an English translation of the Arab League’s Satellite Broadcasting Charter approved by Arab governments at a meeting in Cairo in February, along with contrasting opinions of the charter widely criticised by advocates of media freedom. In essence, the charter incorporates restrictions which most Arab governments already apply to their own terrestrial broadcasters and to satellite broadcasters which operate from their territory. But the governments have tended to give the satellite broadcasters a little more freedom than they allow terrestrial broadcasters, most of which are state-owned.

The operative clauses for religious broadcasting are clauses 9 and 10 of article 6:

9. To comply with the religious and ethical values of Arab society and maintain its family ties and social integrity.

10. To refrain from insulting God, revealed religions, prophets, mazhabs (religious sects), and religious symbols.

As with several other clauses prohibiting certain types of broadcasts, the bans are stated in the broadest terms, leaving plenty of room for interpretation. But until the governments start to apply the charter to satellite broadcasters under their jurisdiction, it will be hard to predict what practical effect it will have.

For more on this charter, check out our reporting on the charter and reactions from Arab satellite broadcasters and Human Rights Watch.


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Mazhabs (sometimes transliterated as madhhabs) actually refers to the four schools of Sunni law, such as Hanafi and Hanbali, and sometimes additionally the ‘fifth’ (Shi’i) school of law. It is usually translated as ‘law schools’. ‘Religious sects’ is a rather creative rendition, IMHO.

Posted by Yakoub | Report as abusive

Thanks for this, Yakoub. That’s what we understand, too, but this is a quote from the translation of the charter by Arab Media and Society, not Reuters.

Posted by Tom Heneghan | Report as abusive