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Crackdown on Islamist TV stations a worry

Some anchors arrested on charges of inciting violence

Gulf News

Cairo: A crackdown on Islamist TV stations following the ouster of Egypt President Mohammad Mursi, has raised concerns about freedom of expression inside the country and abroad.

Egyptian authorities late on Wednesday stopped the broadcasting of January 25 — the Muslim Brotherhood’s mouthpiece — and ultra-conservative TV stations Al Hafez and Al Nas, which backed Mursi.

“I had no idea about the closure decision and object to it,” said Hassan Hamed, chairman of the state-run Media City where these stations used to broadcast. “I’m against shutting any media outlet. Even if it makes a mistake, this should be dealt with by law,” he told the independent Al Sherouk newspaper.

Some anchors of these stations were arrested in a police clampdown on charges of inciting violence, said police sources.

The detainees include hardline clerics, who issued death fatwas against secular opposition some months ago, added the sources.

The closure of the broadcasters, apparently on orders from the army generals, was condemned by the human rights watchdog Amnesty International.

“There has already been a blow to freedom of expression with several TV channels, which supported the president [Mursi], silenced and staff reportedly arrested immediately after his overthrow,” said the organisation on Thursday.

The Qatari news television Al Jazeera, meanwhile, said that Egyptian police had stormed its offices in Cairo and disrupted its transmission.

“Al Jazeera Network holds Egyptian authorities responsible for the safety of its crew and calls for releasing those arrested from its employees,” said the broadcaster, a backer of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood.