Al Jazeera dropped by Nilesat

Al Jazeera dropped by Nilesat
Published: 11.12 UTC, January 31, 2011 by Julian Clover

Al Jazeera has reacted with “utter disappointment” after a weekend that saw its signal dropped from Nilesat and its offices in Cairo closed. In a statement Al Jazeera, which broadcasts in Arabic and English, said the move was a reaction to how widely its coverage was being watched.

The Nilesat signal had been cut, before being restored by engineers, though still facing interference. Broadcasts of Al Jazerra’s Arabic news channel and the live events service Al Jazeera Mubasher continue on Arabsat and the Eutelsat Hot Bird.

“Regardless of the multiple attempts by the Egyptian authorities to deter and impede our reporting, Al Jazeera continues its comprehensive coverage of the landmark events unfolding in Egypt,” said Al Jazeera director-general Wadah Khanfar.

On Sunday, the Al Jazeera news ticker was displaying the details of hastily arranged new frequencies and reminders of existing distribution in an attempt to remain in contact with its audience. Khanfar told staff the news should not be met with disappointment, but used as fuel for further impetus. “Under very trying circumstances we have delivered the highest standard of reporting from Egypt which has gripped our growing global audience. Even in such a short space of time we can be proud of our achievements, level of professionalism and sophistication in covering the significant developments in Egypt.”

The pressure on Al Jazeera was condemned by the UK-based Association for International Broadcasting, which counts Al Jazeera among its members. “AIB and its global membership of broadcasters protests strongly at the restrictions placed on Al Jazeera Network in Egypt,” said AIB chief executive Simon Spanswick. “The move by the authorities in Egypt demonstrates a complete disregard for freedom of expression as well as media freedom in the country. AIB looks forward to the Egyptian authorities swiftly reconsidering the restrictions they have placed on the channel and allowing Al Jazeera and all other media companies to report from the country without hindrance.”

The web has become an increasingly important distribution mechanism for Al Jazeera. On Saturday the broadcaster reported the live feed of its English language service had been viewed for a composite 26 million minutes in the preceeding 24 hours.

Skype had been used to record messages from members of the public. These had in turn been made available through Audioboo and distributed on Facebook.