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“Super Police” to monitor Arab satellite TV?

Media freedom groups say move would increase censorship and limit journalistic freedom across ME.

January 25, 2010 12:29
1 minute read.
“Super Police” to monitor Arab satellite TV?

al-jazeera 224.88. (photo credit: AP [file])

Arab information ministers representing 22 member states of the Arab League discussed the formation of a new transnational body to monitor Arab satellite TV stations on Sunday, amidst calls from media freedom groups that the move would increase censorship and limit journalistic freedom across the Middle East.

"The International Press Institute is wary of efforts to engage in that kind of monitoring particularly given the record of most, if not all, Arab Middle Eastern countries on press freedom," Anthony Mills, Press Freedom Manager with the International Press Institute, told The Media Line. "It's an example of states in the Arab world using the notion of security to in fact monitor and stifle independent reporting."

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"In particular not so long ago, there were efforts to get Arab countries to sign on to a convention that would in effect be a pledge to make sure that broadcasters could not insult Heads of States or attack other states' security," he added.

The initial proposal for a transnational media monitoring organization was launched in 2008 by the secretary general of the Arab League, former Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa.

"The proposal is partly a response to a bill adopted last month by the US House of Representatives," the Paris-based Reporters without Borders said in a statement. "[The bill] could result in satellite operators themselves being branded as 'terrorist entities' if they contract their services to TV stations classified as 'terrorist' by the US Congress."

According to Reporters without Borders the 22-member Arab league is divided into a pro and con camp regarding the proposal.

On the pro side are political and economic heavyweights Egypt and Saudi Arabia, home to the two dominant satellite carriers NileSat and ArabSat, while on the opposing camp is Lebanon's Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Manar, which would likely be scrutinized by the new organization, as would Qatar-based Al-Jazeera. Al-Aksa, a Hamas station broadcast from the Gaza Strip and viewed as a terrorist organization by the US, also might be targeted.

Professor Hussein Amin, head of the department of Journalism and Mass Communications at the American University in Cairo and one of the organizers of the ministerial meeting, told The Media Line that the "meeting is taking place behind closed doors."

As yet, he said, there is "no information" regarding the outcome.

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