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Retransmission of Al-Jazeera International TV programmes banned

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has criticised as "unacceptable" the information and culture ministry's censorship of Al-Jazeera International's TV programmes and demanded that the ban be lifted at once. Minister Abdul Karim Khurram accused the pan-Arab station of "inflicting a killer blow to the cultural and the legal authority of the government" and said the local station Lemar TV was retransmitting them illegally.

"The ministry's charges against Al-Jazeera are inappropriate and groundless," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "The ban is obviously part of a wider drive by elements in the government trying to stifle any dissident voice it does not like."

The minister accused Al-Jazeera, in a 5 April 2007 letter to the complaints committee of the upper house of parliament, of not broadcasting "sufficiently Islamic" programmes during Mawlid (the prophet Mohamed's birthday) and said Lemar TV was retransmitting Al-Jazeera programmes without permission. He also said Lemar TV and Tolo TV had not paid their taxes. An earlier request by Khurram to end the retransmission of Al-Jazeera International was rejected by the justice minister, who said Lemar TV had done "nothing wrong."

Lemar TV chief Saad Mohseni said the station had stopped retransmission after getting a letter from the justice ministry on 7 April ordering it to end the broadcast of programmes from Al-Jazeera International. He told Reporters Without Borders he had dropped the programmes "to avoid violent reprisals by security forces" and that he would bow to the president's good judgement so as to end the dispute." He noted that the programmes had been legally retransmitted and contained nothing blasphemous."

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