Egypt Now Blocking Al Jazeera Broadcasts to Much of Middle East

The Egyptian government isn't just attempting to censor Al Jazeera within Egypt itself. The news station was just kicked off one of the Middle East's main satellite providers—which happens to be based in Egypt.

The Egyptian government shut down Al Jazeera's Cairo offices, withdrew the accreditation of their reporters and forced the network off an Egyptian-owned satellite that supplies television to much of the Middle East.

Al Jazeera's signal on Nilesat was disrupted on order of government authorities. Nilesat has more than 10 million viewers throughout the Middle East, with the primary subscriber base residing in the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

The Committee to Protect Journalists also reports that Egyptian authorities are blocking reception of Al Jazeera's Arabic station from other satellite networks. Al Jazeera appears to be jammed for subscribers to the Hot Bird satellites and other services within Egypt. Al Jazeera English, however, remains available via satellite within Egypt.

Subscribers to the two widely used satellite providers in the Middle East at large, Hot Bird and Arabsat, are still able to receive Al Jazeera.

In an Arabic-language statement posted to their website, Al Jazeera provided emergency instructions for Nilesat viewers to receive the station through alternate frequencies. However, many subscribers note on the station's comments page that they are unable to watch Al Jazeera through the new frequencies in Morocco. It is unconfirmed at this time whether that is due to a technical issue or whether Al Jazeera is also being blocked there.

Here is the official statement from Al Jazeera:

Al Jazeera has expressed its "utter disappointment" with the blockage of its signal on Nilesat and sees this as a further attempt to block its reporting out of Egypt. 
The news network said on Sunday that the move was a reaction to the popularity of its wide coverage of the events in Egypt.
On its bureau in Cairo being closed earlier by the Egyptian government, the network said it retained the right to take any available legal measures to reverse the move.
 "Regardless of the multiple attempts by the Egyptian authorities to deter and impede our reporting, Al Jazeera continues its comprehensive coverage of the landmark events unfolding in Egypt," Wadah Khanfar, the news organisations's director general said.

Nilesat's majority owner is the Egyptian Radio and Television Union, with minority shares held by the multinational Arab Organization for Industrialization (AOC). Despite its name, the AOC largely functions as an arm of the Egyptian government, with Hosni Mubarak serving as chairperson.

Mubarak's decision to shut off Egypt's Internet access from the outside world has been largely successful, but demonstrators and tech-savvy types have managed to get data into the outside world through dial-up and satellite-based workarounds. Al Jazeera has been embracing this reduced-bandwidth situation with a vengeance: While they are not currently able to show correspondents on the ground in Egypt, they are posting furiously to a Flickr stream and updating news via Twitter.

Read more Egypt protest coverage.

[Photo of Egyptian soldiers guarding state television station via Al Jazeera English on Flickr]

Follow the author of this article, Neal Ungerleider, on Twitter.

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