Egypt stops TV channels, Islamic trend seen a target

October 20, 2010

satellite dishesEgypt has temporarily shut 12 satellite channels and warned 20 others for reasons ranging from insulting religions to broadcasting pornography, although an analyst said the real target seemed to be strict Islamic trends.

The government last week tightened TV broadcast rules, a move critics said was part of a crackdown on independent media before a parliament election in November and a presidential poll next year. Four channels were closed. The government denied any political motivation.

(Photo: Satellite dishes, 3 April 2004/Jack Dabaghian)

Analysts said the latest decision to temporarily shut the satellite channels and warn others, announced late on Tuesday, seemed to be mainly to stop the spread of strict Islamic Salafi teaching that might boost support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood is banned but runs in elections by fielding candidates as independents. The authorities have long been wary of any Islamist group, particularly after a militant insurgency in the 1990s. However, analysts said that even if the government’s main target was Salafi channels it was also seeking to clear the airwaves of some channels that were abusing licences.

The official added that some channels had been taken off air to “avoid a conflict between religions, between Christians and Muslims, and between Sunnis and Shi’ites.”

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