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Al Jazeera's activities suspended indefinitely

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is very concerned to learn that the culture and information ministry announced on 18 May 2010 that it was suspending the pan-Arab satellite TV station Al Jazeera's activities in Bahrain until further notice.

"This announcement confirms that the government wants to maintain control over the media and eliminate programmes it dislikes," Reporters Without Borders said. "We firmly condemn this ban on Al Jazeera and we urge the culture and information ministry to rescind this decision."

In a communiqué published by the Bahrain News Agency, the culture and information ministry announced on 18 May that it had "temporarily frozen" the activities of the Al Jazeera office in Bahrain for "breaching professional media norms and flouting the laws regulating the press and publishing."

The statement added that the suspension would remain in force until the ministry and Al Jazeera reached an agreement "protecting the rights of both sides on the basis of reciprocity in exercising press and media work in both countries." Al Jazeera is based in nearby Qatar.

In a statement posted on its website on 18 May, Al Jazeera said it was surprised by the measure because it had not been notified officially and because it does not have a bureau in Bahrain. The station was, however, immediately affected as Bahraini authorities prevented an Al Jazeera team from entering the country on 18 May to interview a UN official.

Reporters Without Borders has learned that the latest Al Jazeera programme in its series "Economy and Men," which looks at the economic situation and its impact on the ordinary life of the inhabitants of various Arab countries, was about poverty in Bahrain. Broadcast on 17 May, the day before the suspension, the programme was described as "obscene" by the culture and information ministry, the online newspaper Al-Watan reported.

Refused permission to operate in Bahrain in 2002, Al Jazeera was allowed to resume its coverage of the country in 2007. The culture and information minister had nonetheless accused the station of pro-Israeli bias and deliberately trying to harm Bahrain.

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