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TBS 14: Satellite Chronicles

TBS continues its month-by-month record of events in the Arab and Islamic satellite world as reported in the press and by BBC Monitoring. 

December 2004 to May 2005


December 7
MBC Children's Channel

Walid al-Ibrahim, president of Dubai-based Middle East Broadcasting Center's board of directors, announces that the station will launch its children's channel December 8 under the name "MBC3." The channel will target children aged between 3 and 13 years. Al-Ibrahim noted that 40 percent of the Middle East's population falls with this age bracket. Al Hayat, 7 December, 2004, p.21 Asharq al-Awsat, December 11, 2004, p.21.

December 13
France Bans Al-Manar

France's Council of State ordered Paris-based satellite operator Eutelsat to stop broadcasting Hizbullah-owned Lebanese satellite channel Al-Manar within two days of December 13 or pay a fine of $6,600 per day.

The council said the station broadcast some programs that were "openly contrary" to a French law banning incitement to hate, a situation that poses "risks to maintaining public order," it said in a decision made available to reporters. Associated Press, December 13, 2004. (See further in this issue Of Bans and Boycotts)

December 17
US State Department Calls Al-Manar Terrorist, Bans
Al-Manar was placed on the State Department's Terrorist Exclusion List (TEL) on Friday 17 December, "because of its incitement of terrorist activity," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

Subsequently Washington also banned Al-Manar from broadcasting through satellite operator Intelsat which covers North America. Al-Ahram Weekly Online, 23 - 29 December, 2004, Issue No. 722.

December 22
Beirut's Shia Retaliate For Al-Manar Ban
Al Hayat reports that satellite dish service providers in Beirut's southern suburbs have cut off subscribers' access to France's Channel 5 in retaliation for France's banning of Al-Manar from its airwaves (see December 13). The suppliers described their action as "individual" and "popular." Al Hayat, 22 December, 2004, p.1.

December 31
Dubai Media City Tops 80 Satellites
Asharq al-Awsat reports that the number of satellite channels operating out of Dubai Media City reached more than 80 during 2004, more than half of them broadcasting in Arabic. A further fifteen are waiting to complete procedures and DMC officials expect the number of channels to double during 2005.

New Channels of 2004
The same paper provides a tour d'horizon of Arabic language channels that started broadcasting in 2004. Singled out for mention are: MBC3 (children 3-13); Dubai Media Incorporated's TV One; ART's "occasions" channel (devoted to "individual, corporate, company, university, industrial plant and tourism events"; Iraq's al-Nahrayn; and Orbit's Cinema 2 (24-hour Egyptian movies) and Cinema 1 (Arab movies in general); Infinity and Al-Ra'y (both variety channels); Egypt's MTC tourism channel; Orbit's Al-Safwa; the US government's Alhurra; and Al Jazeera Sports and Al Jazeera Documentaries. The year also saw the launch of fifteen new Arabic music channels, many of them benefiting from the development of SMS as a popular technology enabling viewers to request songs and vote in competitions such as the hugely popular Star Academy. Among these channels were Strike, Nujum 5, al-Shababiyya, and Rotana Tarab. Rotana also launched Rotana Cinema, exploiting its stock of some 2000 restored Egyptian films. Asharq al-Awsat 31 December, 2004, p.18.

January 2

Jasim al-Ali Tapes Published
Asharq al-Awsat devotes close to a full page to a description of audio and video tapes reportedly discovered in Baghdad and due for broadcast January 6 by Alhurra that purportedly record meetings between Arab figures, including Muhammad Jasim al-Ali, former CEO of Al-Jazeera, and Uday Saddam Hussein prior to the fall of the previous regime. Asharq al-Awsat's main headline reads "Muhammad Jasim al-Ali to Uday: I am here to listen to your point of view and to get your observations . . . and without your cooperation and support for us our mission would not have succeeded." In a secondary piece, Muafac Harb, director of Alhurra, is quoted as saying, "Alhurra obtained Uday's tapes in a more professional manner than that by which Al Jazeera obtained the Bin Ladin tapes." Asharq al-Awsat, 2 January, 2005, p.3.

January 19

Imad Adeeb Resigns from "On Air" on Air
Imad Adeeb announces on air his resignation as host of Orbit's 'Ala al-Hawa' ("On Air"), said to be the first live uncensored call-in talk show on Arabic television. 'Ala al-Hawa' first broadcast eleven years ago. Adeeb gave his reasons for resigning as being "to rest and develop himself." Al-Hayat, 19 January, 2005, p.1.

January 28

Imad Adeeb Says No Government Post
Imad El Din Adeeb discusses his resignation in Asharq al-Awsat, insisting that he has no dispute with former employer Orbit TV and that he will not be taking a government post. 
Asharq al-Awsat, 28 January, 2005, p.22.

February 2005

New Information Minister for Egypt
Mamdouh El-Beltagui is replaced as information minister by Anas El-Fiqqi and assumes the latter's position as youth minister. During his seven month tenure as minister of information, El-Beltagui "tighten[ed] the ministry grip over TV shows in a bid to boost the quality of state-television broadcasts. He also refused to air certain 'religiously controversial' TV series, formed the Higher Committee for Dramatic Works to review scripts for soap operas," and reduced the air time of local TV channels. Egypt Today, March 2005, p.38.

February 8

Egypt's Mufti Criticizes Unqualified Satellite Preachers
Ali Jum'a, mufti of Egypt, criticized the presence on satellite television of unqualified proselytizers and their use of these channels to disseminate fatwas (religious edicts) that in many cases "failed to fulfill the criteria for the issuing of authoritative legal opinions and failed to respect the need for specialized expertise." Jum'a warned against the danger of conflicting fatwas that might "stir up muddle and doubt" in the minds of many. Asharq al-Awsat, 8 February, 2005, p.1.

February 24

Iran's Sahar TV Banned in France
Iranian TV reports that Sahar TV, a major Iranian TV channel, was banned in France due to its airing of objectionable content, which was monitored, translated, and released by The MEMRI TV Monitor Project. French authorities cited the series Zahra's Blue Eyes, as well as the earlier Al-Shatat, a Syrian-produced film originally broadcast by Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV. The US government also condemned Zahra's Blue Eyes in a Voice of America editorial. Al-Shatat is reported to have been condemned earlier by high-ranking American and European government officials. MEMRI TV Project via www.al-bawabaforums.com.

February 27

Al-Arabiya Accuses Syria of Death Threats
Reuters reports that Al Arabiya has accused Syrian security bodies of making death threats against members of its staff following an interview with UN chief Kofi Annan in which the latter urged Syria to withdraw from Lebanon. Yahoo!News, February 27, 2005.

US to Start Arabic-Language TV Broadcasting to Europe
Reuters reports that the Bush administration plans to begin Arab-language satellite-television broadcasts (through Alhurra TV channel) to Europe later this year. France and Germany, which have Western Europe's largest Muslim populations would be a special focus for news and current affairs programs. "The planned broadcasts . . . are also meant as competition for Qatar-base channel Al Jazeera, which American officials view as an anti-American rival for Muslim public opinion." http://story.news.yahoocom, February 27, 2005.

February 28

US to Expand Persian-language TV Broadcasting to Iran
Reuters reports that the US government is "planning to expand its Persian-language satellite-television broadcasts to Iran as part of an initiative to press for democratic reforms in the Islamic Republic." www.abcnews.go.com, February 28, 2005.

March 2005

March 7

Saudi Writer Sued for "Helping Access to Satellite Channels
Saudi writer Abdallah Bin-Bakhit is the subject of a lawsuit brought by a group of individuals with the Court of Summary Justice in Riyadh. The suit claims that his writings, among other offenses, "had helped access to the satellite channels." Al-Jazirah Web site, Riyadh, in Arabic, March 7, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

March 9

First Jordanian Private Satellite Channel Launches
"Normina," described as Jordan's first private satellite channel, is launched officially after a five plus month trial transmission period. The channel, chaired by Walid Erian, broadcasts from Jordan Media City on NileSat. Programming will promote Jordan's tourist attractions and screen entertainment programs as well as documentaries on science, nature, and the environment. Al-Hayat, 9 March, 2005, p.21; Jordan Times, 10 March, 2005.

March 10

New Broadcasting Authority for Egypt?
Al-Masry al-Yawm reports proposals to abolish the Egyptian ministry of information following presidential and lower house elections scheduled for October 2005 in favor of an independent radio and television authority. According to the newspaper, Imad El Din Adeeb is the leading candidate to head up the new authority (see also above, January 28). Al-Masry al-Youm, March 2, p.1.

Region's First Demonstration of HDTV
AME, a Dubai-based business news provider, announces that broadcasting firms Absat, Samacom, Sony Broadcast, and Harmonic Inc collaborated at the CabSat exhibition in Dubai to give the region's first ever demonstration of live HDTV transmission via satellite. Shot live with a Sony HDW-750P high-definition camera, pictures showed the CabSAt 2005 exhibition floor. AME Info press release, March 10, 205, via BBC Monitoring.

USA/Syria: Survey Finds Alhurra TV Viewed by "Millions" in Syria 
Middle East Television Network, the non-profit corporation that runs Alhurra TV, reports that a new ACNielsen survey conducted in Syria shows that millions of viewers are tuning into Alhurra. Conducted in December and January, just ten months after the satellite television network launched, Alhurra has, according to the survey, a weekly viewership of 39 per cent among all Syrian adults (15 and over) residing in satellite television households. The survey also indicated that 60 per cent of Alhurra viewers stated that the news on Alhurra is reliable. Middle East Television Network press release, Springfield (Virginia), in English, March 10, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

March 11

Iran Reacts to Sahar TV Ban
Iran's Chair of the Majlis Committee for National Security and Foreign Affairs Ala'eddin Borujerdi says that in reaction to the ban imposed by France on the country's Sahar TV channel (see February 24 above), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must summon the French envoy to Teheran and issue a warning. Borujerdi also said that a reaction of the Ministry of Islamic Guidance towards some of the French media active in Iran could serve as one of the practical responses towards France's action. Mehr news agency, Tehran, March 11, 205, via BBC Monitoring.

March 13
Pakistan Minister Predicts 37 New Channels in 2005
Pakistan's federal minister for information and broadcasting, Shaykh Rashid Ahmad, says that "as many as 37 new TV channels are expected to go on air in the private sector" during 2005. The minister also mentioned that one of the Pakistani Pashto channels is being watched in Afghanistan. Associated Press of Pakistan, March 13, 2005.

March 14
Karen P. Hughes Named as Future US Public Diplomacy Chief
US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on 14 March announces President Bush's intention to nominate Karen P. Hughes as the State Department's new undersecretary for public diplomacy. In her remarks, Secretary Rice said, "The time has come to look anew at our institutions of public diplomacy. We must do much more to confront hateful propaganda, dispel dangerous myths and get out the truth. We must increase our exchanges with the rest of the world. We must work closer than ever with educational institutions, the private sector and nongovernmental organizations and we must encourage our citizens to engage the world, to learn foreign languages, to understand different cultures and to welcome others into their homes." US State Department Web site, Washington, March 14, 2005.

Pakistan to Develop Indigenous Satellite 
According to Pakistan's secretary of the ministry of information technology, Khalid Saeed, the country expects to develop a completely indigenous satellite in the next couple of years. A feasibility study to develop Paksat-IR is being prepared in collaboration with a German company and will be completed in the next four months. Paksat-IR will replace the country's first communication satellite, Paksat-1, in the next couple of years. Associated Press of Pakistan, March 14, 2005.

March 16
Turkey Allows Foreigners to Own Radio and TV Stations
Turkey's parliament endorses a bill that would allow foreigners to own radio and television stations in Turkey. Opposition to the bill comes both from within the ruling Justice and Development party and opposition parties, such as the Republican People's Party and the True Path Party. Republican People's Party member of parliament Kemal Anadol said that under the law the shaping of public opinion had been completely left to foreign forces. TRT 1 television, Ankara, in Turkish, March 16, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

Syria Bans Correspondent from US-funded Broadcasters 
Syria bans Alhurra and Radio Sawa correspondent for lacking accreditation. 
Ammar Musara reportedly had an accreditation, but it was withdrawn "because of his coverage of an opposition sit-in in Damascus," a Syrian human rights lawyer said. 
"In Syria, we open the doors to the media, particular foreigners, to allow them to transmit a real image of what is happening in the country," a Syrian Information Ministry official said on Tuesday [15 March]. "We have no hostility toward the Alhurra chain or Radio Sawa, but their correspondent does not have the proper accreditation," he said. Aljazeera.net web site, Doha, in English, March 16, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

March 17
Taysir Allouni from Prison to House Arrest
Al Jazeera reports that correspondent Taysir Allouni has reached his home in Granada, two days after a Spanish court ordered him moved from a maximum security jail to house arrest for health reasons while awaiting trail. Syrian-born Allouni, a Spanish citizen, was first arrested in 2003 on suspicion of links with al-Qa'ida. Aljazeera.net web site, March 17, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

Bush Takes Arab Media to Task
Reporting a White House news conference on March 16, Asharq al-Awsat describes President Bush as taking "certain Arab media" to task for their criticism of the United States, which the president described as resulting from "their criticisms of Washington's support for Israel." Asharq Al-Awsat, March 17, 2005, p.1.

Turkish Journalists March against New Penal Code
The Turkish Journalists' Association arranges a march to the Istanbul courthouse protesting the new Turkish penal code, which will take effect on April 1. 

Fifteen journalists' organizations have sent a letter March 17 to Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticizing the code for "paving the way for imprisonment for crimes committed via the press." Anatolia news agency, March 17, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

March 18
Europe Bans Al-Manar
The European Union's Board of Censorship decided during a meeting in Brussels to ban transmission of Al-Manar TV through European satellites starting from March 21. Al Manar TV issued a statement saying that the decision violated legal principles, was politically motivated, and came in compliance with a worldwide campaign by Israel to ban its broadcasts. Al-Manar also claimed that the decision was not made to prevent the channel from broadcasting to Europe since the channel had not used any European satellite network for that purpose since the French ban (see December 13). Al-Manar TV, March 18, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

Dutch Ban Al-Manar
The Dutch Commission for the Media orders the Dutch satellite company New Skies to remove Al-Manar TV from its bouquet. A spokesman for the commission said that Al-Manar's broadcasts via a Dutch satellite were technically illegal as the channel did not have a Dutch license. Al-Manar does not deal with New Skies directly but its broadcasts form part of a package that New Skies receives from another provider. New Skies has promised to comply with the order and will drop Al-Manar on March 21 or 22. Radio Netherlands Web site, Hilversum, March 18, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

March 19
Al-Arabiya and Other Journalists Arrested in Iraq
US forces arrest four journalists working for Arab and foreign news agencies in Al-Anbar Governorate, western Iraq. The journalists, who were reporting on the explosion of a booby-trapped car on the highway between Baghdad and Amman, are employed by Al Arabiya, AFP, AP and Reuters and all are Iraqi nationals. Al-Sharqiyah newspaper, Baghdad, in Arabic, via BBC Monitoring.

March 21
Lebanon Broadcaster Withdraws from Eurovision Song Contest
Tele-Liban has confirmed to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) the withdrawal of Lebanon from the Eurovision Song Contest 2005 (ESC 2005) to be hosted in Kiev by NTU, the national Ukrainian broadcaster, on 19 and 21 May. 

According to Lebanese national legislation, Tele-Liban is not permitted to broadcast the performance of the Israeli participant, thereby breaching the rules of the Eurovision Song Contest 2005. Eurovision web site, Geneva, in English, March 21, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

Lebanon and Syria Comment on Al-Manar Bans
The foreign ministers of Lebanon and Syria, Mahmud Hammud and Faruq al-Shar'a, currently in the Algerian capital Algiers, have commented on the ban imposed on transmitting (Lebanese Hizbullah) Al-Manar TV station's broadcasts on European satellites.

Minister Hammud said in his comment "we consider this to be against the freedom of expression that the entire world including the EU demands. We believe this attitude is not in harmony with the call for freedom of expression these countries advocate, and we believe there is a contradiction. We shall pursue through our own means contact with the EU with a view to making the domain of expression free to everybody."

Minister Al-Shar'a said in his remarks: "This decision proves there is serious media hoodwinking going on in our region. The facts and realities are not being transmitted as they are to the American citizen who knows nothing about what is happening on the international arena except through the satellite channels. Therefore they aim to block vision. They aim to block the vision of the American citizen primarily and the European in general, and to open the door wide for satellite channels that transmit specific viewpoints that serve the interest of the project for hegemony in the region. Israel and the media hostile to the Arabs play a major role in this field. You notice that there is massive funding to bolster specific, pre-set media beamed to our region." 

He concluded his statement by expressing the belief that "they have reached a point where they fear media freedom that emanates from the Arab region and try to beam a directed media, a media they once regarded as unsuitable for human rights and freedom". Lebanese National News Agency Web site, Beirut, in Arabic, March 21, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

Summit Welcomes Algeria Proposal for "New Arab Satellite" 
Arab leaders welcomed Algeria's proposal to launch a new Arab satellite, according to the Arab summit draft final communiqué. 

Algeria expressed readiness to prepare necessary studies for the project in coordination with specialized bodies in Arab countries. 

Algeria will host a two-day Arab summit due here within hours to discuss a number of issues on the regional and international arenas. MENA news agency, Cairo, March 21, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

March 22
Syrian Government Approves New Media Law
The Syrian government approved Tuesday a draft law allowing Syrians, in an unprecedented move, to establish satellite radio and television channels.

The draft law aims at organizing reception of TV satellite channels and giving citizens the freedom to select channels freely, said information minister Mahdi Dakhallah.

He told reporters the draft law "is another step towards the development of Syrian media and the support of the private sector in media." Kuwait News Agency web site (www.kuna.net.kw), March 22, 2005.

Kuwaiti Army Officer Sues Al Arabiya TV Over Report 
Kuwait: Staff Lieutenant-Colonel Marzuq Muhammad al-Rajihi, commander of the Kuwaiti Army's 9th Tank Regiment, has filed a lawsuit against Al Arabiya satellite channel demanding moral compensation of up to 100,000 Kuwaiti dinars after the channel reported on 5 January that the authorities had arrested him on the charge of involvement in a terrorist network inside the Kuwaiti Army that was planning to launch attacks on the US forces in Kuwait.

Al-Rajihi's lawyer Nasir al-Duwaylah told Al-Sharq al-Awsat that the court is expected to look into this case in April and added that his client is still in his post in the Kuwaiti Army. He pointed out that he would take the necessary legal measures to lift the injustice inflicted on his client who, together with his family, was very damaged by this accusation. He appealed to the media to get their information from reliable sources. Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, in Arabic March 22, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

March 28
Threats to Beirut Arabsat Offices

Employees at a building housing the office of Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, and Alhurra, as well as CNN and Agence France Presse, have received threats that the building will be blown up and Lebanese security forces have provided a cordon around the building. Al-Hayat, March 28, 2005, p.4.

March 29
Arab Journalists Urge Lebanon to Step up Security After Threats to Media 

The General Secretariat of the Arab Journalists Union (AJU) strongly condemned threats posed to mediamen and journalists in Lebanon amid the prevailing atmosphere of political tension. 

The union, in a statement on Tuesday (29 March), said Arab journalists everywhere resent use of the current turbulence on the Lebanese arena to make threats against senior pressmen and news media in an Arab country which has long enjoyed freedom of the press and expression. 

The most dangerous threat is one to blow up a building housing a number of offices of newspapers, satellite channels and Arab and foreign news agencies in the heart of the Lebanese capital Beirut. 

Placing mock explosives in front of the house of the Lebanese Press Syndicate chairman Muhammad Ba'labbaki represents a flagrant violation of all laws, principles and norms and also of freedom of the press in general, it said. 

The union calls upon Lebanese authorities to provide security for all journalists in Beirut which has always been keen on providing a proper atmosphere for the prosperity of the press. MENA news agency, Cairo, in English, March 29,2005, via BBC Monitoring.
Iraq: Watchdog "concerned" at arrest of Al Arabiya journalist 

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about the arrest of journalist Wael Issam of the Dubai-based TV news station Al Arabiya on 27 March in Baghdad by Iraqi police, who confiscated videotapes containing newly shot footage. 

"We know that Al Arabiya's executives are in touch with the Interior Ministry and are doing their best to obtain the release of their journalist," the press freedom organization said. "We hope this case will be resolved as quickly as possible and that the authorities will present valid reasons to explain their action." 

Issam, who had been in Iraq for four days, was arrested when he went back to Baghdad airport. He is currently being held in a police station. Agence France-Presse quoted an Interior Ministry source as saying the seized videotapes included footage shot in the former rebel stronghold of Fallujah. Al Arabiya did not confirm this. 

Aged 26, Issam has been working for Al Arabiya for two years. Reporters Sans Frontieres press release, Paris, in English, March 29, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

March 30
Syria Protests to Iraq over "Allegations" Aired by Iraqi TV 

Text of report in English by Syrian News Agency SANA Web site:

Damascus, 30 March: The Bureau of the Syrian Interests Section in Baghdad has sent an official protest to the Iraqi Foreign Ministry against the unfounded allegations recently broadcast by the state-run Iraqi satellite television station on confessions by two Syrians detainees who were forced under intimidation to present themselves as Syrian army intelligence officers. 

The Bureau, on directives from the Syrian Foreign Ministry, stressed in the memorandum of protest that the two Syrians Ahmad al-Farra and Mahmoud Rammah are leather traders, adding that both used to go to Iraq to purchase leathers and they are neither medically nor academically qualified to do the alleged jobs assigned to them as claimed by the Iraqi report. 

The protest emphasized that the Iraqi report has been refuted by the information got from the families of Farra and Rammah in the Syrian city of Ma'arrat al-Nu'man as well as by authentic and independent press reports widely broadcast by media. 

Syria called on the Iraqi government to quickly set free the two Syrian detainees Farra and Rammah and to enable them return home. SANA news agency web site, Damascus in English, March 30, 2005 via BBC Monitoring.

Russia: Roskosmos Places New Satellite in Target Orbit 

Text of report in English by Russian news agency ITAR-TASS: 

Russia's new generation telecommunications satellite Express AM2 was successfully placed in target orbit at 0805 a.m. Moscow time, Wednesday [30 March] by a Proton-K booster that blasted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome, the launch control group told ITAR-TASS. 

Russia's Proton-K heavy booster blasted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 0131 a.m. Moscow time, Wednesday. 

"At 0805 the satellite detached from the upper stage rocket and settled into target geostationary orbit at the altitude 35,871 km. The maneuver was carried out in the normal operations mode," the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) said. 

The main centre for tests and control of space vehicles has taken control of the satellite. 
The Express AM2 satellite will be transferred to the customer, state-run enterprise Space Communications. 

The satellite is designed to provide a package of communications services including digital TV, telephony, video conferencing, data transmission, and wide band [broadband] internet access. ITAR-TASS news agency, Moscow, in English, March 30, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

Palestinians ask Al Jazeera to Help Develop Local Media 
Text of unattributed report from Doha, headlined "Information minister discusses means to develop broadcasting authority with Al-Jazeera managers", published by Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat al-Jadidah on 30 March 

Dr Nabil Sha'th, PNA (Palestinian National Authority) deputy prime minister and information minister, met last night in the capital city of Qatar, Doha, with the heads of the satellite television channel Al-Jazeera to discuss ways in which the two sides can cooperate and develop the Palestinian Radio and Television Broadcasting Authority. 

The meeting took place on the sidelines of Sha'th's visit to Qatar. They discussed the possibility that Al-Jazeera would dispatch a team of technical, programme, and administrative experts to Palestine to assist in developing the broadcasting authority's performance. Dr Sha'th thanked Al Jazeera's managers for their willingness to support the development of Palestinian media, especially television. Sha'th is currently on an Arab tour to discuss ways to cooperate and support PNA [Palestinian National Authority] media with prominent Arab intellectuals and media figures. Al-Hayat al-Jadidah, Ramallah, in Arabic, March 30, 2005, p. 2, via BBC Monitoring.

March 31
Qatar: "Al-Jazeera never anti-American" -- Director 
Al Jazeera said yesterday it has never been anti-American although there were indications of the US administration showing a bias against the TV channel. 

Wadah Khanfar, director of Al Jazeera Satellite Channel, said there were grounds to suspect that the US administration has pressured the interim Iraqi government to close its bureau in Baghdad. 

Khanfar was responding to a question during a question-answer session at the Fifth Doha Forum on Free Trade and Democracy at Hotel Ritz Carlton here yesterday. 

Some 20 Al Jazeera staffers were arrested in Iraq and some of them were detained without trial for over 70 days, he said. 

There were no problems with Al Jazeera since its launch in 1996 until 2001, and it was actually appreciated as long as the focus was on differences of opinion between the people and their leaders in the Arab world. But things changed after 2001, Khanfar said, without referring to changed US attitude towards the channel in the aftermath of 9/11. The change was because opinions now reflected included the US. 

Khanfar earlier spoke at a session devoted to the 'role of the media in creating a democratic climate'. The moderator was Joe Trippi, from USA's MSNBC. 

Other speakers included Walker Russel Mead, senior fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, USA, Alain Menargues, French journalist, Smuts Ngonyama, from African National Congress (ANC), and Brian Hanrahan, from the BBC World. 

Nearly all the speakers referred to Al Jazeera and said it was bringing in revolutionary changes in the Arab world. 

Speakers stressed that it was not possible for a society to progress economically if there was no free flow of information. Trade suffers if reliable information is not available, said one speaker from the US. 

Trippi noted that this was not the age of information but the age of people's empowerment. 
Menargues observed that with 20,000 'pieces of information' available daily, people faced difficulty in making a choice of what to access. He was referring to information explosion and the quick transmission of information in this electronic age. 

Ngonyama stressed that international communities should play a role in fighting curbs imposed on the media by governments, owners and other vested interests. He called for a widened role for women in the media worldwide. 

This was after a Moroccan parliamentarian, Nouzha Skalli Bennis, said during the question-answer session that although the forum talked about the role of women in media and democratisation, they were under-represented at the forum. The Peninsula web site, Doha, in English, March 31, 2005 , via BBC Monitoring.

Turkey: Watchdog Says New Law Heralds "Black Day for Press Freedom" 
The International Federation of Journalists today (31 March) backed a chorus of protests among journalists in Turkey over a draconian new law, which they say sets the country on collision-course for confrontation with European standards of press freedom. 

"It is a black day for press freedom when a government enacts a law that threatens journalists with jail, and opens the door to state censorship," said Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ. "Turkey has taken one step forward on the road to democracy, but this new law is two steps backwards when it comes to the free press." 

The new Penal Law, which was adopted in September last year and comes into force tomorrow, 1 April, has enraged Turkey's journalists who have held marches in Istanbul and Ankara over clauses in the law that stipulate jail terms for journalists in some cases and which they say contains articles that restrict press freedom. 

Some 15 journalists associations, in the leadership of Turkish Journalists Syndicate, an affiliate of the IFJ, have signed a protest letter to the Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Anger over the new law has led to protests in a number of cities around the country. 

The journalists say there are 20 articles in the new law which could restrict the right to report and may lead to arbitrary prosecution of journalists and media. Journalists could be jailed for publishing material deemed obscene when previously the toughest penalty would have been a fine. They want the new penal code suspended so these parts could be amended. 
Although jail terms for journalists had been removed from Turkey's press law in reforms last year, and changes in human rights law have been welcomed, concerns remain over the attitude of Mr Erdogan's government to the press. The prime minister has been criticised for suing a political cartoonist who made fun of him. 

"The government is back-sliding on its commitment to reform when it comes to press freedom," said Aidan White. "It is showing signs of a new intolerance that is in conflict with European standards and is setting up a confrontation with will undermine its ambitions to join the European Union." 

The controversy will be discussed this weekend at the annual conference of the European Federation of Journalists, the IFJ's regional group, which is meeting in Bilbao, Spain. 
"Our colleagues in Turkey are right to protest and they will get the support of journalists across the European Union and beyond in their fight for press freedom," said White, who is also General Secretary of the EFJ. "Turkey cannot pick and choose its own human rights menu. A free press is the lifeblood of democracy and this law as it stands challenges the right to report. It must be changed." International Federation of Journalists press release, Brussels, in English, March 31, 205 , via BBC Monitoring

April 2005

April 3
Saudi Arabia: Justice Ministry Relinquishes Publishing and Media Cases

Saudi Justice Minister Abdallah bin Muhammad Al al-Shaykh announces that cases concerning publishing and media will no longer fall within the purview of the Shariah Courts but be transferred to the Ministry of Culture and Media as the correct locus of expertise. Asharq al-Awsat, April 3, 2005, p.1.

April 4
Latifa Slams Satellite Songs
In an interview, Tunisian singer Latifa claims to detect a "hidden hand" working behind the scenes of the music satellites and pushing them down a slippery slope towards a decadence that is "the best expression of the decadence being lived by the Arab Nation on many levels." Latifa also states that songs that do not carry "a real message for mankind" should "disappear." Al-Hayat, April 4, 2005, p.21.

Hezbollah TV Airs Trailers Warning Lebanese Against "Slipping Back into War" 
Lebanese Hezbollah TV Al-Manar was observed at 1810 gmt on 2 April to carry two trailers by the Commission for Supporting the Islamic Resistance. The trailers aimed to send a message to the Lebanese people asking them to beware of "slipping back into war" and foreign "interference" in Lebanon's internal affairs. 

The first video clip showed pictures recounting the various stages through which Lebanon had passed. It began with pictures of the Lebanese civil war in 1975, destruction and bombardment. 

It showed a picture of Arab leaders applauding during an Arab League meeting, possibly to symbolize the signing of the Al-Ta'if accord. The video then showed how life in Lebanon had returned to normal after the war. It showed former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri laying the cornerstone of a project, possibly to symbolize Lebanon's reconstruction after the war; and Hezbollah Secretary-General Hasan Nasrallah holding a machine gun, possibly to symbolize the "protection" of Lebanon. 

The video moved to the present by showing images of US President Bush, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and the Israeli foreign minister, Silvan Shalom. This was followed by pictures of recent bombings and destruction, possibly in order to associate these individuals with the incidents. 

The second trailer showed a building on fire, a fire engine and a Lebanese flag in front of which was written "Lebanon... where to?" Al-Manar Television, Beirut, in Arabic, April 2, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

Zee to Launch Global News Network in English 
Text of report by Indian broadcast industry web site Indiantelevision.com on 4 April 
New Delhi: The Subhash Chandra-controlled Zee Network, India's largest vertically integrated media company, today announced that it would "soon launch" an English language global news network with an aim to put across the south Asian viewpoint to the world adequately. 

Speaking some time back at the three-day Ficci-Frames 2005, an entertainment and media industry-related conclave in Mumbai, Chandra said that this initiative of Zee, amongst few others, is aimed at trying to put an Indian stamp over the global media and entertainment industry. 

According to Chandra, for the India media companies to become truly global and competitive at the international level, it is necessary that the region's viewpoint is put across lucidly, laced with adequate perspective, in front of the global audiences. 

This move, Chandra said, is being done as, for example, generally CNN explains the US viewpoint, while BBC elucidates the British viewpoint to the global audience. 

In this regard, Chandra, whose company is lobbying hard for certain policy changes, pointed out that the government should look into the investment norms and try removing the inadequacies therein to enable Indian media companies to go truly global and compete internationally. He also said that his dream is to straddle the global market through ventures in various parts of the world. 

Chandra said this in presence of government representatives at the Ficci-Frames convention, which was flagged off today in the forenoon. 

"Look outward and try taking new share of the global media industry," Chandra suggested to the Indian media industry representatives present at the convention, indicating that unless this is done India media companies would not be able to increase their share of the market globally. 

Keep tuned as we bring you more from the Ficci-Frames convention as also what Chandra, sometimes also referred to as the Asian Rupert Murdoch, said during a special address. Indiantelevision.com web site, Mumbai, in English, April 4, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

April 6
Amr Diab 
Egyptian pop star Amr Diab is reported to be campaigning among residents of his home village of Samhut, Sharqiyya governorate, for support in his bid for a seat in the country's parliament. Sources close to the singer say a formal announcement is expected soon. Elaph web site, in Arabic, April 6, 2005.

Iraq: CBS Freelance Cameraman Shot and Wounded by US soldiers 
Reporters Without Borders today called for a thorough and transparent investigation into an incident yesterday near the northern city of Mosul in which US soldiers shot and wounded a freelance cameraman working for the US television network CBS News. 

"Once again the US forces have targeted a journalist just doing his job," the press freedom organization said. Reporters Without Borders pointed out that this was not the first time that US soldiers shot a cameraman after mistaking his camera for a gun. Mazen Dana, a Palestinian working for the British news agency Reuters, was killed in a similar fashion on 17 August 2003 in Baghdad. The US army claimed that the US soldiers involved had acted according to the rules of engagement. 

"We again call on this same army to be more vigilant and discerning in order to avoid these unacceptable blunders," the organization added. 

The cameraman was injured in the hip in the course of an exchange of shots between Iraqi insurgents and members of the 1st Brigade of the US 25th Infantry Division. In a statement issued by the Pentagon, the US army said soldiers fired at a rebel who was "waving an AK-47 (assault rifle) and inciting a crowd of civilians."

During the incident, "an individual that appeared to have a weapon who was standing near the insurgent was shot and injured. This individual turned out to be a reporter who was pointing a video camera. Regretfully, the reporter was injured during the complex and volatile situation," the statement said, adding that the incident was being investigated. 
The journalist, who CBS News said should not be named for his own protection, was taken to a US military hospital for treatment. The US army described his injuries as minor. 
At least 52 journalists and media assistants have been killed in Iraq since the start of the war in March 2003, Reporters Without Borders said. [Passage omitted]. Reporters Sans Frontieres press release, Paris, in English, April 6, 2005 via BBC Monitoring.

Venezuela: Al Jazeera to Open Office in Caracas 
Text of report by Radio Nacional de Venezuela on 6 April 
[Announcer] Information and Communications Minister Andres Izarra confirmed on Wednesday morning [6 April] that Qatar Emir Hamad Bin-Khalifah Al Thani would visit Venezuela on 11 May as part of the Al Jazeera-Telesur project. 

[Izarra - recording] We have an agreement with Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera-Telesur, which we hope to formalize with the emir's visit. It includes not only the establishment of an Al-Jazeera correspondent's office in Caracas but a whole production capability that will allow Al-Jazeera to cover the entire region. 

They want to produce some programming blocks for the new English-speaking channel they are about to launch, as Al Jazeera is expanding its services and information proposal. So far they have only broadcast in Arabic, but now they will start broadcasting in English, covering the Latin American region as part of their signal and coverage expansion. 
They have therefore decided that Venezuela is a strategic site that will enable them to cover all of Latin America. They plan to have correspondents in Caracas, Brazil and Argentina, and somehow centralize their operations here. [End of recording] 

[Announcer] Minister Izarra also said that by centralizing their operations in Caracas, the Al-Jazeera-Telesur Project proves the importance of South American integration to Arab countries. Radio Nacional de Venezuela, Caracas, in Spanish, April 6, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

April 7
Arab News Channels Plan Extensive Coverage of Papal Funeral 
Arab satellite news channels Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya plan extensive coverage of Pope John Paul II's funeral Friday (8 April), following up on their extensive reporting of his illness and death. 

No one at either station would venture to predict how many viewers are expected to watch the event. But Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, the two leading Arab news channels, have audiences estimated in the tens of millions. 

"We have two crews in place with all the equipment necessary" to cover the funeral, which will coincide with weekly Muslim prayers in the Arab world, said Ayman Jaballah, deputy editor-in-chief of Doha-based Al Jazeera. 

"We plan to broadcast the funeral live, but it will depend on several factors," he told AFP. 
"The main stages, such as the gathering of world leaders (for the service), will (definitely) be broadcast live," Jaballah said. 

Al-Jazeera's Dubai-based, Saudi-owned rival Al Arabiya said it was also gearing up for the funeral, which is expected to draw more than two million people to Rome, including political and religious leaders and royals from around the world. 

"Two reporters are in Rome... and there will be live coverage during news bulletins," said executive news editor Nabil al-Khatib. 

"But we do not plan continuous live transmission, as would have been the case for the funeral of an Arab head of state," he told AFP. 

"Al Arabiya covers current affairs... and the pope was an important figure given the political role he played on Arab matters, including Iraq and Palestine," said the station's director general, Abd-al-Rahman al-Rashed. 

Arab officials and Muslim clerics have paid tribute to the pontiff, hailing him as "a man of peace". But some Islamist extremists have used internet sites to slam Arab TVs for reporting extensively on the demise of the head of the Roman Catholic Church, which they perceive as an enemy. 

One internet user assailed Al Jazeera for allegedly irritating its viewers with "a flood of material... hailing the pope, an old tyrant." 

Al Jazeera's elaborate coverage of the events surrounding the pope's death was particularly shocking to Islamist extremists since the television gained worldwide fame by airing "exclusive" video and audiotapes of Al-Qa'idah chief Usamah bin-Laden following the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States claimed by his terror network. [Passage omitted] 

Al Arabiya's director-general said the fierce criticism of his station's coverage of the pope's death on fundamentalist websites had been expected, but the news channel had earned applause from other quarters, "because our coverage is meant to inform, and does not have a spiritual goal." 

Coverage is a function of the newsworthiness of events, Rashid told AFP, recalling that John- Paul was one of those who helped "reduce the risk of a clash between Christian and Muslim fundamentalists." 

"A Muslim Turk tried to assassinate him, but he did not make an issue out of it," said Rashid, referring to Mehmet Ali Agca, who attempted to kill Pope John Paul II in 1981 and was forgiven by the pontiff. 

So far, reaction to Al Jazeera's coverage has been "rather positive," Jaballah said curtly. Khaleej Times web site, Dubai, in English, April 7, 2005 , via BBC Monitoring.

April 8
France: Jean-Pierre Elkabbach Named Head of Europe 1 Radio
Journalist Jean-Pierre Elkabbach, 67, chairman of the Public Senat channel, has been named the head of French radio Europe 1, Lagardere Active announced today in a statement. 

Elkabbach, who was named director of Lagardere Active Broadcast, replaces Jerome Bellay, whom Arnaud Lagardere has asked "to dedicate himself exclusively to producing television programmes from now on" at Maximal Production. 
Elkabbach takes up his post today, the group added. 

[Passage omitted] 

He will remain the presenter of the two programmes he already hosts on Europe 1. 

[Passage omitted] 

He will also remain in post as chairman of Public Senat, a spokeswoman for the channel said. It was launched last week on digital terrestrial TV and founded in 2000. 

Europe 1, which has just celebrated its 50th birthday, has a cumulative audience of 9.7 per cent, according to the latest Mediametrie survey (November-December 2004). AFP news agency, Paris, in French, April 8 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

Watchdog Calls on USA to Account for Killings of Journalists in Iraq 
The International Federation of Journalists today called on the United States government to end all speculation over targeted killings of journalists and media staff by providing "credible and convincing" reports on incidents in which 14 media staff have been killed since the invasion of the country in March 2003. 

"The United States stands accused of failing to meet its obligations to deliver justice and fair treatment to the victims of violence by its own soldiers," said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White in a letter to President George Bush. Similar letters calling for the US to carry out exhaustive investigation into these cases have been sent by IFJ affiliates to US officials and many countries. 

8 April marks the second anniversary of the United States attack on Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, which at the time contained scores of reporters and media people reporting on the US invasion. Two journalists were killed and others wounded. On the same morning, a journalist was killed when the Baghdad offices of the Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera was attacked by US fighter planes. The IFJ says there are another 11 other cases of unexplained killings in which US soldiers were involved that require answers. 
"The ordeal of family, friends and colleagues of media victims continues as they wait for justice from the authorities about how and why their loved ones died," said White. 
The IFJ says that two years after the invasion of Iraq the pain of the war is deeply felt by journalists and media staff and particularly by Iraqi journalists themselves who joined today's protests.

The federation accuses the US of carrying out "whitewash" reports of the killings -- and in many instances cases there have been no reports at all.

"These reports follow the same unconvincing and incredible pattern: secrecy over the detail and nature of the report, a failure to examine all the evidence, paltry and cruelly insensitive shrugs of regret, and complete exoneration of responsibility of US personnel at all levels of command," said White. "It is denial of justice on a shocking scale."

The IFJ says that 8 April has come to symbolize for many the crisis of impunity which sees scores of journalists killed in targeted assassinations each year, but few are the subject of serious investigation and only a handful ever lead to prosecution of those responsible. 
The IFJ recognizes that most targeted journalists are the victims of cruel extremists "with whom it is impossible to make a moral compact".

"We condemn unreservedly those attacks and the people behind the current wave of hostage taking which has seen the kidnapping of our colleagues Florence Aubenas, of Liberation, her driver Hussein Hanoun as well as Romanian reporters Eduard Ohanesian of Romania Liberia, Marie-Jeanne Ion and Sorin Miscoci of Prima TV. 

We will campaign vigorously for their release and for the isolation, arrest and trial of all those responsible for murder and kidnapping of journalists," said White. 

But at the same time, the IFJ says the United States needs to act to defend its traditions of liberty and justice by addressing the concerns of journalists around the world over the failure to take responsibility for the deaths of journalists and media staff in Iraq. 

"A prompt and convincing response to the questions raised over these deaths will end speculation over the targeting of journalists and media and provide irrefutable evidence for Iraqi journalists and the people of Iraq that the democracy now in the making will deliver justice for all," said White. 

For further information please contact +32 2 235 22 07

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries International Federation of Journalists press release, Brussels, in English, April 8, 2005 , BBC Monitoring.

April 10
Arab Working Team to Discuss Media Role in Confronting Terrorism 
An Arab working team will meet on Monday (11 April) at the Arab League HQ to discuss Arab media role in confronting terrorism. 

The three-day meeting will be presided over by chairman of the Arab information permanent committee Amin Basyuni and attended by representatives from eight Arab countries -- Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Oman, Qatar, Lebanon and Libya. 
Discussions will focus on how to crystallize a joint vision for the optimum way to make use of media programmes in facing up to the phenomenon of terrorism. 

The meeting will deal with working papers presented by several Arab countries on the role of the Arab media as regards the two phenomena of extremism and terrorism. 

The team is to prepare a working paper on the issue in preparation for referring it to the 76th ordinary meeting of the Arab information permanent committee on 5-7 June. 

The Arab summit recently in Algiers has condemned all forms of terrorism. MENA news agency, Cairo, in English, April 10, 2005 , via BBC Monitoring.

Syrian Court Acquits Director of Al-Hayat-LBC's Office -- Lebanese LBC TV 
The Supreme State Security Court in Syria unanimously acquitted the director of Al-Hayat-LBC's office, Ibrahim Hamidi, from all charges against him, including the charge of reporting news which he knew to be untrue and exaggerated. 

Hamidi, who was detained for five months, said that he was acquitted for lack of legal grounds or because he was included in the general amnesty which President Bashar al-Asad had issued. 

Hamidi was arrested in 2002, three days after writing an article about the intention of Syrian authorities to receive Iraqi refugees before the US war on Iraq to topple Saddam Husayn's regime, which is what Syria denied after publishing the report. LBC Sat TV, Beirut, in Arabic April 10, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

April 12 
Pakistan: Minister Calls for Islamic Digital Television Channel 

Islamabad, 11 April: Pakistan Information Minister Shaykh Rashid Ahmed on Monday [11 April) called upon the Muslim world to have an OIC (Organization of the Islamic Conference] digital television channel for the projection and protection of the cause of ummah. 
He was addressing a seminar on "Pak-Arab Media Dialogue towards better Understanding" organized by Al-Jazeera television in Islamabad. 

The minister extended Pakistan's full support for a strong media collaboration in the Muslim world. 

"Pakistan and the Arab world are connected with each other with common faith and media in our region is playing a positive role in strengthening our relations." 

Shaykh Rashid Ahmed said that media has provided the Muslim world with the new arena for human interaction, economic expansion and social and political manoeuvring, a breeding ground for new ideas in culture. 

He said media has played an important role in recent war in Iraq and Afghanistan. 
The official added that due to low literacy rate in the Arab world and in Pakistan, the role of electronic media is more important as the information is telecast to millions of people simultaneously. 

"Media in Muslim countries has to shoulder its responsibility to educate the masses enabling them not to pay heed towards the biased coverage of the Western media." 
Rashid said Pakistan and Arab world have to face the reality and brace themselves to meet the challenges. IRNA web site, Tehran, in English, April 12 2005 , via BBC Monitoring.
Qatar: Al Jazeera to broadcast live unedited conferences Doha, 12 April 2005: Al Jazeera is preparing to launch yet another first in Arab broadcasting in the shape of Al Jazeera Mubashar ("live" in Arabic), a new specialized media service that will air live conferences, meetings, discussions and other gatherings covering political, social, cultural, economic and other issues of relevance. 

The new service is similar to C-Span in the USA, and will entail neither anchor people nor an editing process. 

The new service is expected to start transmission on 15 April 2005, and will take in Al Jazeera Television Production Festival, an event planned to be held in Doha on 18-21 April 2005 as one of its early broadcasts. 

Managing Director Wadah Khanfar said that initially the service will be received via Arabsat satellite, adding that plans are afoot to widen the footprint by utilizing other satellites in the near future. 

Al Jazeera Mubashar joins existing media services namely its flagship, the Arabic language news service, the two web sites (in Arabic and English) and Al-Jazeera Sports. Al-Jazeera will also be launching new services in Al Jazeera International (the English language news service) as well as a documentary and children's channels. Al Jazeera's Media Training and Development Centre has been operational for over a year now, accommodating media needs domestically and regionally. Al Jazeera TV press release, Doha, in English, April 12, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

Iran: Film Director Said to Have Plans for Satellite TV Network 
A number of directors have said that they are prepared to make campaign films for their favourite candidates running in the Iranian presidential election scheduled for 17 June. 
According to unofficial sources, director Behruz Afkhami will make a campaign film for former Majlis Speaker Mahdi Karrubi. He also plans to launch a satellite network to broadcast programmes promoting Karrubi's candidacy, and it has been reported that the channel has already sent test signals from Dubai. 

I am doing this because of my personal inclination towards Karrubi, said Afkhami, who was an MP during the Sixth Majlis (2000-2004) when Karrubi was the speaker.

He originally planned to launch a London-based satellite television network serving up a diet of politics from Iran and movies from Hollywood. However, the plan displeased many Iranian conservatives and he was not given the 400,000-dollar grant which some reports said President Mohammad Khatami's office planned to give him. Mehr news agency, Tehran, in English, April 13 2005 , via BBC Monitoring.

April 14
Qanat Al Mar'a Al Arabiya 

Heya TV, now sporting its new title Qanat Al Mar'a Al Arabiya, is to start rolling out its new programs.

"It is about time to introduce new programs and enrich the existing ones," said Nicolas Abou Samah, president of Qanat Al Mar'a Al Arabiya. The changes come one month after the station released its initial declaration to changes were apparently put on hold after Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri's assassination. The springtime grid will feature new programs such as Podium, Stars w Bass, The ABC of Sewing and Nisa' Fil Wajiha presented by Sawsan Al Husseini who will showcase the achievements of Arab women. Middle East Broadcasters Web site, April 14, 2005.(www.mebshow.com).

MEB reports that satellite services provider Arabsat is due to start construction of its fourth-generation satellite Arabsat4A and Arabsat-4B. Arabsat-4A is scheduled to enter service in November 2005 while Arabsat-4B will follow in February 2006. Middle East Broadcasters Web site (www.mebshow.com), April 14, 2005. 

April 15

India: Star Brand Will Appear on Proposed Bengali Channel 
Mumbai, 15 April: The Bengali new year, 15 April, has good news for, who else but, Bengalis. A proposed Bengali channel from the ABP Group-Rupert Murdoch combine is on its way, scheduled to be put on air late April or early May, while plans for foraying into select other Indian languages, including English, are being spruced up. 

The 24-hour Bengali news channel will also be co-branded. This lays to rest speculations on the channel not carrying the Star brand name. 

"We are expecting the formalities to be completed very soon, including getting an uplink permission from India. After that happens, it will be just a matter of time before we put the Bengali channel on air. Internally, we are ready," Media Content & Communications Services India Pvt. Ltd (MCCS) CEO Uday Shankar told Indiantelevision in an interview. 
MCCS, a 74:26 per cent joint venture between the Aveek Sarkar-controlled Kolkata-based ABP Group and Murdoch-promoted Star Group, manages Star News channel. It has ambitions of creating a bouquet of select other Indian language-specific news channels. 
Dwelling on the company's expansion plans, Shankar said that the company has drawn up plans to consolidate its position with Star News even while tapping regional language markets with channels that would have a "national outlook." 

"We are in the process of evaluating what should be the next move after the Bengali channel is put on air. But we certainly have lined up several activities for this year," he added, hinting that MCCS is investing afresh in technology, human resources and, may be, even in distribution activities. 

[Passage omitted] 

BBC's design arm BBC Broadcast Design, which was instrumental in providing a new look for Star News in February, will be responsible for the graphics and on-air look of the Bengali channel too. 

On the programming front, the proposed channel will have a blend of programming that is aimed at attracting Bengali speaking audiences nationally. However, due focus on local (West Bengal-specific) news too would be given as MCCS would like to capitalise on the ABP Group's strong presence in eastern India. 

The Kolkata-based company publishes The Telegraph in English and the widely circulated Bengali newspaper Ananda Bazar Patrika, both of whom have the ambition to be national dailies. Indiantelevision.com web site, Mumbai, in English, April 15, 2005 , via BBC Monitoring.

Qatar: Al Jazeera Satellite Channel Live 
15 April 2005, observations from BBCM Caversham confirm reception of new digital free-to-air, Qatari Al Jazeera Satellite Channel live (JSC Live). The leading Arab satellite television station, launched its new service today. A station spokesman told the BBC that JSC Live will focus on political, social and cultural issues and will broadcast events live without editing or commentary. The station is currently observed broadcasting to the Middle East via the NileSat satellite located at 7 degrees west, on the transponder frequency of 12284 MHz vertical polarisation, Symbol Rate 27500, FEC 3/4. 

The Lyngsat satellite information web site (www.lyngsat.com), lists JSC Live as being available on transponder 123 from ArabSat 2D satellite located at 25. 8 degrees east, 10971 MHz horizontal polarisation. BBCM has so far been unable to confirm this information. 

As observed at BBCM on Friday 15 April, Al Jazeera Live carried the funeral of Monaco's late Prince Ranier in full with no accompanying commentary. This was later followed by live images of a small demonstration in Beirut in support of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. In between, the channel was showing promotional videos of the upcoming Al Jazeera Production Festival which opens in Doha, Qatar from 18- 22 April. The Festival is due to bring together television productions from across the Arab world. In its Festival promotion, Al Jazeera Live was reporting that it will carry the sessions from the Festival. 

Al Jazeera's newest channel also carried programming schedules of the upcoming events it will show live throughout the day, as well as a text of the latest news updates at the bottom of the screen. BBC Monitoring research, in English, April 15, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.
West Bank and Gaza: Head of satellite channel explains resignation 

The media man, Mahir al-Rayyis, chairman of the Palestinian satellite channel, has accused a well-known and well-organized force, which he did not name, of seeking to impose hegemony on the resources of the homeland. He pointed out that the Palestinian satellite channel has become the target of prime importance to the interests of these forces in order to marginalize and then control it. 

Al-Rayyis expressed his displeasure with the interference by certain figures in the affairs of the satellite channel, particularly in the issues of appointments, promotions, representatives, and others, irrespective of requirements and qualifications. He complained that employees are being turned against each other, which has spread hatred, grudges, and chaos, as happened in many other official institutions. 

Al-Rayyis confirmed that he submitted his resignation as head of the channel to Dr Nabil Sha'th, deputy prime minister and minister of information, on Wednesday last week. He attributed his written resignation to the extreme financial restrictions being applied to the Palestinian satellite channel and the Palestinian Radio and Television Corporation ever since he assumed his duties over four years ago, including delegating to him the duty of spending for the corporation and the channel together. 

Al-Rayyis clarified that among the results of the financial limitations is that the channel cannot be watched by its viewers in the western half of the globe through the two satellites, Telestar 5 and Telestar 12, because the subscription fees have not been paid to the company owning the above-mentioned two satellites. He noted that he repeatedly called on all concerned sides to do what was necessary. In addition, the subscription fees have also not been paid to the Egyptian satellite company NileSat and the Arab satellite company Arabsat. And there has been a great deal of stalling and prevarication in paying the dues to those who have imported equipment to the corporation and the channel, which has made both lose their credibility before others. In addition, there is no funding for replacing equipment and tools and buying spare parts. Al-Rayyis clarified that there is some contradiction between the ceiling of expectations regarding the performance of our visual media and the provision of the basic minimum financial and technical requirements for doing so. 

He confirmed that there was a secret war against the satellite channel, which became clearer after certain Israeli sides accused it of waging a war of hatred and incitement to violence, terrorism, and anti-Semitism. 

He added that while the satellite channel was being awarded prizes in the Arab [media] festivals, some of our writers, columnists, and a few specific radio announcers here were waging campaigns against the Palestinian satellite channel and holding it responsible for all the Islamic, Arab, and Palestinian media failures without knowing that the Palestinian satellite channel was deprived of most of its operating budget for many years. It did not manage to cover its basic need for video tapes. It was forced to use its tapes from the archives on many occasions and started suffering from the phenomenon of distorted transmission because of worn out tapes and equipment. The hypothetical age of these tapes and equipment had elapsed a long time ago, despite the directives from President Mahmud Abbas, which were clear and decisive regarding the need to overcome the obstacles that prevent our work from developing. 

The chairman expressed his pride in the employees of the Radio and Television Corporation and the Palestinian satellite channel and for those he has worked with in the various positions he has occupied since 1999 as director of the general department for political affairs and news, then acting general coordinator of the Palestinian Radio and Television Corporation and head of the Palestinian satellite channel, and finally his confirmation as chairman of the Palestinian satellite channel on 17 July 2004 to the date of his resignation. 

He said that quite a substantial number of them have great potential in the visual media field and what they lack is financial resources, equipment, tools, and training. These are the things he tried to acquire as much as he could with all his might, but got very little. The head of the satellite channel wished whoever succeeds him success and achievement in carrying this trust further. Al-Hayat al-Jadidah, Ramallah, in Arabic, April 14, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

April 17
MPs Call for Expulsion of Al Jazeera TV's Staff After Unrest in Southwest Iran 

Tehran, 17 April: Following the distribution of a fake letter in Khuzestan Province, a number of MPs representing Khuzestan in the Majlis called on the interior minister on Sunday 17 April to expel the employees of Qatar's Al-Jazeera television network from Iran for their measures meant to provoke Iranian nationals of Arab origin to rise up against the Islamic Republic of Iran. [Passage omitted]. Mehr news agency, Tehran, in English, April 17, 2005 via BBC Monitoring.

April 18
Iran: Minister Blames "Subversive" TV Channels for Provoking Unrest 

The information (intelligence) minister has announced that 200 people have been arrested in the recent Ahvaz unrest. Ali Yunesi was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the meeting of the governors of the country at the Interior Ministry. He said that all the influencing elements and behind-the-scenes agents who were provoked by subversive television channels and caused the recent clashes in Ahvaz have been identified and arrested. 
Al-Jazeera television channel has been the leading [provocative] foreign television channel on this issue. [Passage omitted]. Islamic Republic of Iran News Network, Tehran, in Persian, April 18. 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

Al Jazeera TV's Activities in Iran Suspended Until Further Notice 
[Presenter] Now, before you hear the second segment of the news bulletin from Kamran Najafzadeh, let me draw your attention to a special news item: The Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry announced an hour ago that the activity of Al Jazeera TV in Iran is hereby suspended until the network's role in the recent events in Ahvaz becomes clear. (Ahvaz, in southwest Iran, was the scene of protests by ethnic Arabs on 16-17 April.) Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran Network 2, Tehran, in Persian, April 18, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.
Iranian official comments on suspension of Al Jazeera's activities 

[Presenter] The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, reacting to the discord-sowing and destructive activities of Al-Jazeera TV, has halted the network's activities in Iran. This network tried in the recent events in the city of Ahvaz to propagate sectarianism and separatism, and to inflict a blow on Iran's national security. 

The Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry had also warned this network two months ago to desist from destructive activities against Iran's national security; otherwise, its offices in Iran would be shut down. 

Mr Khoshvaqt, director-general in charge of foreign media at the Culture and Islamic Guidance ministry, told the radio correspondent the following about the order to halt the activities of Al Jazeera TV in Iran. 

[Khoshvaqt] From today, we have fully suspended the activities of Al Jazeera TV in Iran and ordered a complete halt to operations at Al Jazeera's representative office in Tehran until our investigations are completed and it becomes clear to what extent Al Jazeera was active in connection with the unrest that occurred in Ahvaz. After (as heard) the presentation of clear and adequate explanations by Al Jazeera, the activities of this representative office in Iran will be in suspension and the continuation of its activities will depend on our decision after the nature of the network's conduct becomes clear. 

Our expectation is that this network should carry out its news activities in the framework of professional conduct and to respect Iran's national unity and national security in its activities. 

If it is proved that Al Jazeera TV has committed an offence, it will definitely by prosecutable and the body responsible will be the honourable Foreign Ministry. Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Tehran, in Persian, April 18, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

Al Jazeera TV Regrets Iranian Decision to Suspend Tehran Office 
Al Jazeera's office in the Iranian capital, Tehran, has received a verbal notification from the Iranian authorities, asking it to suspend its media activities temporarily. The government-owned television station in Tehran quoted an official at the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance as saying that the Al Jazeera channel's activities had been suspended to investigate its role in the incidents that took place in the Ahvaz region, and that the channel would be sued if it were proven that it had committed any offence. 

While regretting this surprise decision, Al Jazeera reiterates that it will continue to pursue its well-known professional line, which is based on the principle of allowing views and counterviews to be aired. Furthermore, the Al Jazeera channel affirms to its viewers that it will continue to cover Iraqi developments comprehensively and objectively and in a balanced manner. It also urges the Iranian authorities to reconsider the decision to suspend its office's activities in Tehran. Al Jazeera TV, Doha, in Arabic, April 18, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

Al Jazeera Launches TV Production Festival
Al Jazeera TV launched a four-day Festival of Television Production in Doha, Qatar, showcasing "two hundred and seventy-nine documentary, social, promotional, and talk show works" in what channel officials claimed was the first event of its kind. Al-Hayat, April 18, 2005, p.21.

April 19
Iranian Radio Lists Al Jazeera TV's "Offences" 
The activities of Al Jazeera TV have been completely suspended. 

The Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry director-general for media affairs (Mohammad Hoseyn Khoshvaqt) said: Following the broadcasting by Qatar's Al Jazeera TV network of programmes that were divisive and contravened Iran's national security, the network's activities in Iran have been suspended and its office in Tehran closed. 

Mr Khoshvaqt added: Until it becomes clear to what extent Al Jazeera TV spread lies in the course of the recent unrest in Ahvaz, the network's activities in Iran will be suspended and, if the offence is proved, the Foreign Ministry will follow it up. 

Propaganda aimed at changing the name of the Persian Gulf, interfering in Iran's internal affairs by broadcasting divisive reports and trying to create ethnic discord are some of the network's other offences. 

The Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry had also cautioned the network two months ago to desist from activities harmful to Iran's national security; otherwise, its offices in Iran would be closed. Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Tehran, in Persian, April 19, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

April 20
Syria Denies Pressurizing Alhurra TV Over Talk Show Guest Choice 
Alhurra Television yesterday said that it had decided to stop its live "Free hour" programme from Syria because the channel had come under pressure with regard to its freedom to choose its guests. 

Answering a question on this by the Syrian Arab News Agency, SANA, Dr Nizar Mayhub, director of foreign information at the Ministry of Information, said that the ministry had offered all possible facilities to Alhurrah. The evidence is that the first episode of the programme was a success, as the channel itself admitted, he said. 

Dr Mayhub said a number of people who were supposed to appear on the remaining three episodes of the programme are temporarily away from Syria. This indicates that the Alhurra team did not coordinate with the participants in advance. This forced the channel to cancel its programme without any interference from the Foreign Information Department or any other Syrian quarter. 

Dr Mayhub pointed out that the first episode of the programme on Syria reflected a climate of openness and freedom in which intellectuals and media figures expressed their views on the Syrian media in full freedom. Al-Thawrah Web site, Damascus, in Arabic, April 20 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

April 22
Spanish judge orders "temporary release" of Al Jazeera journalist
"[Spanish] Chief justice of the court trying colleague Taysir Alluni orders his temporary release without putting him under house arrest," Qatari Al Jazeera satellite TV reported in a "breaking news" screen caption at 0950 gmt on 22 April. Al Jazeera TV, Doha, in Arabic, April 22 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

April 25
BBC Announces Funding for Arabic-Language TV
As part of a revamp of the BBC World Service, £20 million in annual funding is to be made available for a 24-hour television news service in Arabic. Independent, April 25, 2005.

Israeli Officials Said to Express "Dismay" Over Award for BBC Reporter 
Israeli officials have expressed dismay that BBC reporter Orla Guerin, who has come under sharp attack for what some perceive as an anti-Israeli bias in her coverage, will receive an MBE honour from the British government for "outstanding service to broadcasting."

Diaspora Affairs Minister Natan Sharansky, who last year wrote a formal letter of complaint to the BBC over Guerin's coverage, said it is a pity that the absence of anti-Semitism was not a criterion for the award. 

If it were, he said, Guerin would not be receiving the honour. The MBE stands for Member of the British Empire, one of a number of honours issued each year by the queen. 

"It is very sad that something as important as anti-Semitism is not taken into consideration when issuing this award, especially in Britain where the incidents of anti-Semitism are on the rise," Sharansky said. 

Guerin, when contacted Wednesday, would not speak without receiving permission from her home office in London. A phone query to the BBC offices in London, followed -- as requested - by an e-mail with a short description of the line of questioning, did not yield a response from either the BBC or Guerin. 

According to the Sunday Times, the 38-year-old Guerin will be presented the award by Baroness Symons, the minister of state for the Middle East in the British Foreign Office. According to this report, Guerin, who has spent 10 years reporting from war-torn countries, was to receive the honour last year, but the ceremony was postponed so she could report from Ramallah on Yasir Arafat's funeral. 

In addition to Jerusalem, she has also reported from Kosovo, Grozny, Moscow and the Basque country. 

One Israeli official, who responded to the news by saying he was "shocked", said Guerin is among the most anti-Israeli journalists reporting from Israel today. 

According to this official, granting her an award fits into a pattern that began in 2003 when the United Kingdom's Political Cartoon Society awarded Dave Brown of the Independent its "cartoon of the year" award for a cartoon he drew depicting a naked Ariel Sharon biting off the bloodied head of a Palestinian child. 

"It seems if you are anti-Israel, you will get an award," the official said. 

Last year, in response to one of Guerin's dispatches about Israel's capture of a mentally challenged 16-year-old would-be suicide bomber, Sharansky wrote the BBC that it employs a "gross double standard to the Jewish state" that smacks of anti-Semitism. 

Sharansky protested that Guerin, in her report, portrayed the event as "Israel's cynical manipulation of a Palestinian youngster for propaganda purposes". He said this "reveals a deep-seated bias against Israel. Only a total identification with the goals and methods of the Palestinian terror groups would drive a reporter to paint Israel in such an unflattering light instead of placing the focus on the bomber and the organization that recruited him". 
The report, he said, "has not only set a new standard for biased journalism, it has also raised concerns that it was tainted by anti-Semitism". 

In his letter, Sharansky quoted Guerin as describing to viewers how the IDF (Israel Defence Forces)"paraded the child in front of the international media", then "produced" the child for reporters, "posed" him a second time for the cameras and then "rushed him back into a jeep."

Likewise, the Evening Standard, which interviewed Guerin in 2003, wrote that she "questioned Israel's claim to be a democracy, compared its press freedom with Zimbabwe's and accused its officials of paranoia."

During that interview, Guerin, referring to a period that year when Israel refused to cooperate with the BBC, said "I can't imagine any other government thinking like that -- Zimbabwe is the comparison. I'm absolutely stunned that they think it's appropriate."

"Israel talks regularly - at this point, in my view, with less justification -- about being the only democracy in the Middle East," she said. "But how can you still be a democracy and try to harass the press? This is not how a democracy behaves." The Jerusalem Post web site, in English, April 25, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

April 26
Palestinian Information Minister Given Responsibility for Official Broadcaster 

Gaza, 26 April: President Mahmud Abbas issued a presidential decree this evening transferring responsibility for the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation [PBC] and the Palestine Satellite Channel [PSC] from the chairmanship of the PLO Executive Committee and the presidency of the Palestinian National Authority [PNA] to the minister of information. Following is the text of the decree:

Decree No. (not given) for 2005 

Chairman of the PLO Executive Committee, president of the PNA 
In accordance with the authority vested in us and with a view to upholding public interest, we have decreed the following: 

Article 1 
The responsibility for the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation shall be transferred from the chairmanship of the PLO Executive Committee and the presidency of the PNA to the information minister with the aim of placing all official media outlets and agencies under one authority. 

Article 2 
The responsibility for the Palestine Satellite Channel shall be transferred to the information minister in the same manner and for the purpose of unifying the official Palestinian media. 

Article 3 
All concerned authorities, each according to its powers, must implement the provisions of this decree which shall be effective as of its issuance in the official gazette. 
Issued in the city of Gaza on 26 April 2005. 

Palestinian news agency Wafa Web site, Gaza, in Arabic, April 26, 2005, via BBC Monitoring.

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