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Government pressure on television programme considered too liberal

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is concerned about the Saudi pro-government daily "Al Watan's" attempts to interfere in the programming of MBC, a privately-owned, pan-Arab satellite television station based in Dubai. A recent column in the newspaper called one of MBC's programmes "contrary to society's customs."

"This quarrel between news media reflects strong pressure from the government, which does not tolerate news media broaching subjects that are considered too daring for Saudi society," Reporters Without Borders said. "'Al Watan's' meddling opens the way for widespread press freedom violations in Saudi Arabia. The media need to be protected and encouraged to tackle a wide range of subjects that open up to the world."

MBC presenter Lajine Amrane spoke about problems linked to adolescent sexuality in one of her recent "Good morning, Arabs!" programmes. "Al Watan" deputy editor Abdallah El-Kabie called the broadcast "contrary to society's customs" in an editorial on 15 April 2009. "It encourages adolescents to be insolent and violate social customs," he told Reporters Without Borders.

Amrane described his comments as a "violation of freedom of expression" and called for an apology from "Al Watan" and its staff.

Broadcast from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day except Thursday and Friday, "Good morning, Arabs!" is targeted mainly at women and tackles a wide range of subjects including health, fashion and beauty.

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