CAIRO — Egypt moved on Sunday to shut down Al Jazeera’s coverage of mass protests against President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, but the pan-Arab broadcaster vowed that it would not be silenced.
Outgoing information minister Anas al-Fikki has “ordered the closure of all activities by Al Jazeera in the Arab republic of Egypt and the annulment of its licenses,” Egypt’s official MENA news agency reported.
The press cards of all Al Jazeera staff in Egypt were also being withdrawn, it added.
Egyptian satellite operator Nilesat meanwhile halted its relays of Al Jazeera programming, although the Qatar-based television channel could still be viewed in Cairo via Arabsat.
On Twitter, an Al Jazeera correspondent, Dan Nolan, wrote: “Aljazeera Cairo bureau has been shut down. Just visited by plain clothes govt security, TV uplink is now closed.”
In a statement, Al Jazeera said the shutdown — on day six of unprecedented and often violent street protests — was aimed at “censoring and silencing the voices of the Egyptian people.”
“Al Jazeera sees this as an act designed to stifle and repress the freedom of reporting by the network and its journalists,” it said.
“Al Jazeera assures its audiences in Egypt and across the world that it will continue its in-depth and comprehensive reporting on the events unfolding in Egypt,” it said.
It added: “In this time of deep turmoil and unrest in Egyptian society, it is imperative that voices from all sides be heard.
“The closing of our bureau by the Egyptian government is aimed at censoring and silencing the voices of the Egyptian people.
“The Al Jazeera Network is appalled at this latest attack by the Egyptian regime to strike at its freedom to report independently on the unprecedented events in Egypt,” it added.
More than 100 people have been killed since mass protests against Mubarak’s regime — ignited by popular unrest in Tunisia — erupted last Tuesday. While moving to change his government, the president is defying calls to stand down.
Al Jazeera has revolutionized the Arabic-language media and reporting on the Middle East since its foundation in 1996.
Media analysts have credited its blanket coverage of this month’s unrest in Tunisia with contributing to the ouster of the North African state’s longtime ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Last week Al Jazeera angered the Palestinian Authority when it began releasing the first of 1,600 files detailing more than a decade of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
The files alleged that Palestinian negotiators offered unprecedented concessions on such sensitive subjects as Jerusalem and refugees.
They also claim that of members of the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority cooperated closely with Israel in confronting Hamas, Fatah’s more militant rival, which controls the Gaza strip.
In December, Kuwait shut down Al Jazeera’s bureau in Kuwait City over its coverage of the use of police force at a public gathering. Al Jazeera denied meddling in Kuwaiti affairs, saying it was just doing its job.