Rebecca Hawkes | 04-09-2013
An Egyptian court has ordered the closure of four television stations, including Al Jazeera's Egyptian affiliate, for "insulting the armed forces ... and inciting foreign countries against Egypt".
The court order, issued on 3 September, is part of a crackdown on television stations considered supportive of the ousted president Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood.
The Cairo-based channel Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr has been accused of rumour-mongering and dividing the country over its extensive coverage of opposition protests. Last week, the Government said the channel was operating without a licence and warned that legal action would follow, "given the threat it poses to national security".
Al Jazeera has always denied taking sides and maintains its coverage is fair and balanced.
The other TV stations affected by the court order are Ahrar 25, which has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, and two other Islamist channels, Al-Quds and Al-Yarmuk.
It is the latest in a series of crackdowns on the media in Egypt, which have focused in particular on Qatar's Al Jazeera network.
Three Al Jazeera English journalists were deported from Egypt on 1 September, days after the news channel aired statements from leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood calling for protests against the military-backed Government.
Wayne Hay, Adil Badlow and Russ Finn were put on an Egyptian plane bound for London, having been detained by security forces since 27 August. Shihab Elddin Shaarawi, an executive on Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr, was also arrested on 30 August but later released, the network says.
Al Jazeera's Cairo office has been closed since a raid by security officials on 3 July – the day Mohamed Morsi was ousted from office by the army.
The former president is in custody awaiting trial on charges of inciting the murders of protestors in 2012.
Pressure on the media by the army-backed Government has intensified since at least 1,000 Muslim Brotherhood sympathisers were killed in August by security forces during raids on demonstrations.
"The Egyptian Government is widening its censorship campaign against critical media in Egypt to undermine coverage of Muslim Brotherhood protests," said Sherif Mansour, Middle East and North Africa coordinator for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
"Like their predecessors, authorities apparently fail to grasp that the attempted suppression of dissenting voices only compounds the dissent."