x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Al Jazeera sues over broadcast ban in Egypt

Al Jazeera TV is taking legal action in international courts against the Egyptian government for closing its offices, jamming its signals and arresting its reporters, the network said yesterday

Muslim Brotherhood supporters flee from Egyptian police. Al Jazeera was banned in Egypt for covering Brotherhood protests. Khaled Desouki / AFP
Muslim Brotherhood supporters flee from Egyptian police. Al Jazeera was banned in Egypt for covering Brotherhood protests. Khaled Desouki / AFP
TV channel accused of supporting Morsi

Broadcaster says interim government has arrested journalists and stopped signals

CAIRO // Al Jazeera TV is taking legal action in international courts against the Egyptian government for closing its offices, jamming its signals and arresting its reporters, the network said yesterday.

The network was ordered to stop broadcasting because the military backed authorities perceived it as being supportive of the former president, Mohammed Morsi, and his Muslim Brotherhood.

Al Jazeera's local affiliate has extensively covered Brotherhood protests following the military coup and has also broadcast recorded messages from fugitive Brotherhood members sought by authorities.

Three other pro-Islamist stations were also ordered to be shut in the same court decision. The main Brotherhood station was taken off the air the day Mr Morsi was removed.

An Egyptian court on September 3 ordered Al Jazeera's local affiliate to stop broadcasting, accusing it of hurting national security, broadcasting lies and vilifying the country's military.

The offices of the local affiliate, Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr, were raided after Mr Morsi was deposed by the military on July 3, following days of street protests by millions against his rule. At the time, 28 members of staff of the affiliate were detained and later released. And since last month, at least two Al Jazeera reporters have been detained.

Two other Al Jazeera offices in Cairo, the regional Al Jazeera and Al Jazeera English, were unaffected by the court ruling. But authorities have closed in on their operations, deporting three members of an Al Jazeera English crew after detaining them for nearly a week, and accusing them of working illegally.

"Al Jazeera cannot permit this situation to continue," the network said.

Referring to the military backed government that took over from Mr Morsi, the network said the new regime in Egypt had ignored the rights of journalists to report freely and "seems determined to silence all independent journalism and reporting in the country".

Egyptian officials were not available for comment.

Egypt's interim president yesterday extended a nationwide state of emergency by two months, citing security conditions.

The presidential decree came days before the expiration of the state of emergency imposed last month after authorities cleared two Brotherhood protest encampments, unleashing violence that claimed the lives of nearly 1,000 in the subsequent days.

Since then, a night-time curfew has also been in effect in a number of governorates. The government will decide separately on whether to continue the curfew.

The decree gives greater powers of arrest to security forces. Near-daily scattered protests by Mr Morsi supporters continue, and the government said it faced an organised violent campaign to destabilise the country.

Also yesterday, an Egyptian court acquitted 10 policemen and four civilians of the killings of several protesters during the 2011 uprising against the former president, Hosni Mubarak.

Nearly 200 policemen and Mubarak-era officials have been charged with the killing of 900 protesters in various trials since his removal. Most of the suspects have been acquitted.

Lawyers and rights activists said the prosecutors' cases were weak and Egypt's laws had no adequate provisions to try officials for such crimes.

Egypt's state news agency Mena said the court found the policemen, a businessman and his three sons not guilty of killing 17 protesters in January 2011 in Suez, a city at the southern tip of the Suez Canal that saw some of the first protester deaths in dramatic confrontations with police.

* Associated Press