Egyptian fundamentalists plan Islamic satellite
by Andy Sennitt.
After the recent closure of several religious channels by the authorities, Egyptian Islamists have announced a plan to launch an Islamic satellite to guarantee broadcasting freedom and avoid similar clampdowns.
The decision by Egypt’s main satellite operator NileSat to shut down 12 private channels, mostly religious, on grounds of violating broadcasting licenses triggered expansive protests on the part of fundamentalist groups and shed the light on the possibility of allocating a satellite for those channels, the London-based Asharq Alawsat reported yesterday.
Egyptian Islamist lawyer Montasser al-Zayat, who is known for defending members of Islamist groups, has launched an initiative to raise funds for a new satellite that will be specialized in broadcasting religious channels. “Launching an Islamist satellite is inevitable in light of the changes taking place in the Egyptian media,” he said.
When asked if the option of broadcasting those channels on other Arab satellites instead of the Egyptian NileSat, Mr Zayat replied that this can only be a temporary solution. “At the end of the day, Arab governments have similar ideologies and the proof is that the religious channels al-Rahma and al-Hekma were also banned from the Jordanian NoorSat. We are in a state of war.”
Another option, Mr Zayat added, is to broadcast temporarily form European satellites until the Islamic satellite is launched. “We are planning a meeting on Monday to discuss freedom of expression and the closure of religious channels and there we will garner support for the idea of the Islamic satellite.”
Mr Zayat pointed out that the new satellite will not be Islamic in the sense that all its channels will only broadcast sermons and host preachers, but it will be a venue for freedom of expression in general. He said that a feasibility study for the project was conducted and submitted to him, yet he still believes that implementation will not be easy. “The initiative will be faced by several difficulties because we lack political support.
Al-Nas channel, one of the channels recently shut down by Egypt, pledged to respect broadcasting ethics and abide by the contract terms it reportedly violated in return for a resumption of broadcasting, said channel deputy-chairman Ali Saad. “We have to respect the law and the constitution under which we operate,” he told Asharq Alawsat.
According to the resumption agreement, al-Nas channel is to focus on broadcasting variety programmes that cater to all kinds of audiences. “This will go hand in hand with religious programmes,” he added. “This does not mean that we are no longer a conservative channel. Nothing obliges us to broadcast indecent songs or hire presenters that do not dress decently.”
The new policy of al-Nas channel, Mr Saad explained, was met with enthusiasm on the part of the authorities and the channel is to resume broadcasting on NileSat within one week.