CAIRO: Egypt has stopped the transmission by its TV satellite of Al-Zawraa, a private Iraqi channel whose propaganda on behalf of the Iraqi insurgency had drawn fire from the US and Iraqi governments, an Information Ministry official said Monday.
The chairman of the board of NileSat, Amin Basyouni, said the Al-Zawraa feed had been cut for technical reasons and not as an act of censorship.
The transmission frequency of the channel interferes with the other channels broadcast by NileSat, Basyouni told The Associated Press. We have no authority over what these channels show. We believe in freedom of expression.
But the owner of Al-Zawraa, Mishan Al-Jabouri, saw the move as politically motivated and said he would sue Egypt.
The Americans are very angry with the station because it shows the real image of resistance, not so-called terrorism, and increasing resistance against the occupation, Al-Jabouri said in a phone call from Damascus, Syria, where he lives in exile.
It seems as if the Egyptians are punishing us for that. I have no choice but to sue them, he said.
He said his channel is still being transmitted by another satellite, Arabsat.
Al-Jabouri is a Sunni Iraqi lawmaker who was accused of embezzling $7 million from an oil pipeline security fund in October. He was stripped of his parliamentary immunity and fled to Syria.
Al-Zawraa broadcasts pictures of insurgent attacks on US and Iraqi forces, showing their vehicles exploding. It also shows bloody and mutilated bodies of civilians, including women and children, saying they are Sunnis who were killed by US and Iraqi forces or Shia militiamen.
Editorially, the channel accuses the Iraqi government, which is led by Shias, of being a front for Iran and responsible for killing Sunnis.
Iraqi security forces shut down Al-Zawraa s offices in Baghdad in November, saying it was inciting hatred and instigating violence. But it has managed to continue operating, apparently working from Sunni areas of Iraq.The US State Department said last month that the US and Iraqi embassies in Cairo had asked the Egyptian government to remove the channel from NileSat.Al-Jabouri said the Egyptian engineer in charge of the NileSat, Salah Hamza, had told him on Thursday that Al-Zawraa would be closed temporarily because of jamming problems.
But they have kept it off the air since then without officially notifying me, and now they are no longer answering my phone calls, he said.
Al-Jabouri founded the channel three years ago, but it was distributed by normal transmission until it signed a contract with NileSat last year.
Basyouni, the NileSat chairman, said Al-Zawraa pays the company $300,000 a year for transmission. He said he could not shut down the channel without an order from the Egyptian government.