CAIRO — The satellite channel Al-Jazeera Egypt said on Sunday the authorities had prevented it from broadcasting, after entering its offices and confiscating transmission equipment.
Ahmed Zain, the channel’s chief in Cairo, told AFP that police, officers from the culture ministry and representatives of Egypt’s public broadcaster had also seized materials and that one technician was arrested.
He said they cited the lack of an official licence to broadcast and a complaint from the neighbourhood. He said a lawyer also presented a complaint accusing the channel of “sowing dissent” and “calling for demonstrations.”
Zain said Al-Jazeera Egypt had on March 20 requested official authorisation, and that it had been assured it could continue broadcasting in the interim.
The official MENA news agency reported that the closure affected only Al-Jazeera Egypt, not the offices in Cairo of Al-Jazeera and Al-Jazeera International, which have valid licences.
MENA added that the authorities had intervened at the premises of Al-Jazeera Egypt following complaints by its neighbours, and said documents and recordings had been confiscated.
The agency cited an official source as saying Al-Jazeera Egypt “has no licence to use transmitters to broadcast live.”
The ruling authorities have cracked down on media outlets seen as diffusing information likely to cause instability in Egypt during its transition following the February ouster of president Hosni Mubarak and transfer of power to the army.
On Wednesday, the government ordered a freeze on new satellite television permits after a meeting with top generals to address “media unruliness,” MENA reported.
“It was decided in the meeting to stop issuing licences for satellite channels temporarily,” it quoted Information Minister Osama Haikal as saying.
He said the cabinet had also tasked “the investments authority with taking legal measures against (existing) satellite channels that shake stability and security in this period.”
The meeting was called to discuss “media unruliness and its effects on citizens… and upcoming elections” this autumn.
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