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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.

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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:

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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
.