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IFJ condemns boycott of Iranian television network by Arab satellite operators

(IFJ/IFEX) - 5 November 2009 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today criticised the decision of satellite operators based in Saudi Arabia and Egypt to take off air Arabic broadcasts of the Iranian television network, Al Alam.

"This is intolerable censorship of a news channel based on political considerations," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "The satellite operators must respect Al Alam's editorial independence and allow pluralism in public information."

According to Al Alam, as quoted in media reports, the Saudi-based Arabsat network and Nilesat, which broadcasts from Cairo, dropped Al Alam's Arabic programmes. A statement on the channel's website said that contact between Iranian officials and the satellite operators in the two countries failed to establish an explanation for the cut. The operators are said to have raised an unspecified breach of contract by the Iranian broadcaster.

"It appears the alleged breach of contract is just a pretext for stopping the free flow of information to the Arabic speaking public", added White. "The authorities must come clean on their reason or restore Al Alam's broadcasts on air."

Analysts' reports suggest the measure stems from the tension in the balance of power in the region, where Iran's influence since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 is viewed with apprehension by other regional powers.

The coverage by Al Alam of the on-going conflict in Yemen is believed to have heightened the war of words between Iran and its Arab pro-Western rivals, with the channel accusing Saudi Arabia of supporting the Yemeni Government, reports say.

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