October 20, 2010 / 5:54 PM / 10 years ago

Egypt stops TV channels, Islamic trend seen a target

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt has temporarily shut 12 satellite television channels for reasons ranging from insulting religions to broadcasting pornography, although an analyst said the real target seemed to be strict Islamic trends.

The government last week tightened TV broadcast rules, a move critics said was part of a crackdown on independent media before a parliament election in November and a presidential poll next year. Four channels were closed.

The government denied any political motivation.

Analysts said the decision to temporarily shut the channels and warn 20 others, announced late on Tuesday, seemed to be mainly aimed at stopping the spread of strict Islamic Salafi teaching that might boost support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood is banned but runs in elections by fielding candidates as independents. Authorities have long been wary of any Islamist group, particularly after a militant insurgency in the 1990s.

“Pornography is not the real target of this move because it is still shown on other channels ... but the move is to crack down on Salafi channels that the Brotherhood group could have benefited from during election time,” said Nabil Abdel Fattah from the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.

However, analysts said that even if the government’s main target was Salafi channels it was also seeking to clear the airwaves of some channels that were abusing licences.

“There is nothing political,” a senior government official told Reuters, adding that the decision was taken to ensure a code of ethics was upheld.

The official added that some channels had been taken off air to “avoid a conflict between religions, between Christians and Muslims, and between Sunnis and Shi’ites.”

In the statement announcing the decision, Information Minister Anas El Fekky said: “These corrective measures against extremist channels overall aim to preserve values and traditions of Egyptian and Arab society and to protect the ethics ... of media work.”

According to the statement carried on the state’s egynews.net website, four channels were closed for insulting monotheistic religions, four for promoting unauthorised medical methods and four for broadcasting pornography.

The channels were carried by Egypt’s Nilesat.

Contacts for the channels involved could not immediately be reached for comment.

Egypt holds a parliamentary election on November 28, which is being watched to see how much space the authorities give opposition groups, including the Brotherhood which controls a fifth of seats in the existing parliament.

That is followed by the 2011 presidential poll. President Hosni Mubarak, 82, has not said if he will run again.

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