CAIRO: Egyptian authorities prevented Alhurra satellite channel from taping two editions of its “Eye on Democracy program, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said Thursday.
According to ANHRI’s statement, the taping was banned only a few hours before shooting was meant to commence, and despite Alhurra having secured permission to tape the programs four weeks in advance.
Alhurra is an Arabic-language news and information channel operated by a US Congress-funded non-profit corporation.
According to Alhurra’s website, the channel is dedicated to “presenting accurate, balanced and comprehensive news.
The two banned programs dealt with youth members of Egyptian political parties and their view of democracy, while the second looked at the role of poets, artists and writers in consolidating democracy in Egypt.
The statement quotes activist and blogger Nora Younis as saying, “More than three weeks ago Alhurra rang me from Washington and asked me to take part in the edition of ‘Eye on Democracy,’ which would be filmed on 27 August.
“I then received a call from the Cairo Videosat company – where filming would take place – the day before yesterday to confirm. Yesterday however, four hours before filming, someone from the Cairo Videosat company called me to apologize that filming would not take place in pursuance of security orders, Younis is quoted as saying in the statement.
ANHRI states that three of five high-profile media services companies have been the subject of security restrictions recently.
The owner of the Cairo News Company, which provides equipment and production services to channels including Al Jazeera and the BBC, is currently suing for LE 10,000 worth of damages for equipment confiscated in a raid by plainclothes policemen in April.
ANHRI alleges that two other companies, Cairo Sat and the Arab News Agency have both received threats and been placed under surveillance.
“There are only remain two companies offering this important service to satellite companies: Sawatel and El-Khurafy, the statement reads. “If they are subjected to the same threats and pressure this will mean the absence of direct and objective coverage on satellite channels in Egypt.
ANHRI describes the move against Alhurra as forming part of a “series of restrictions on satellite channels, referring to four satellite channels – Al-Baraka, Al-Hekma, Al-Wozara and Al-Hewar – all of which have been shut down.
“The situation in Egypt has become very dangerous, with satellite channels stuck between security bodies and laws created by Information Minister Anas El-Fiqi – both of which are opponents of freedom of expression and are competing to destroy people’s right to an independent media, ANHRI says in the statement.
In July a draft law on audio-visual transmission was leaked by Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm.
The draft law, which imposes prison sentences for broadcasts and ordinary media-users who violate its provisions, was heavily attacked by rights groups.