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Saudi operator Arabsat takes Iran's Al-Alam network off air

(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, February 3, 2010 - The Committee to Protect Journalists called for Saudi-run satellite operator Arabsat to return to air the Iranian-owned Arabic-language satellite channel Al-Alam, which stopped broadcasting January 27 without prior notice, according to international news reports.

In a statement published on its Web site, Al-Alam said that "Arabsat, in continuation of its censorship policies and as a move to confront the news networks which reflect the realities of the world, has today once again cut broadcasting of the Al-Alam network." Al-Alam was previously taken off the air by both Arabsat and the Cairo-based satellite service provider Nilesat in November. Both cited a contractual breach without elaborating further.

According to a statement released by the Arabsat Operation Center, the satellite is "dealing with an 'interfering' carrier," Press TV reported.

"We urge Arabsat officials to resolve any outstanding technical difficulties they may have and put Al-Alam back on the air as soon as possible," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "Viewers have a right to receive information from multiple sources, even critical ones."

Al-Alam has been a vocal critic of Saudi Arabia's involvement in the insurgency in northern Yemen, Mohamed Dehavi, an Al-Alam spokesman, told CPJ. "We do not believe that this is a technical issue like Arabsat is claiming, but rather a political one aimed at censoring Al-Alam's coverage of current events," he added.

The Yemeni government has been engaged in a years-long fight against disenfranchised Shia rebels in the north of the country.

Arabsat did not respond to CPJ's repeated requests for comment.

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