Orbit Showtime (OSN), the Middle East pay-TV operator, lost some important channels on February 1. In particular news station Al Jazeera was missing from its portfolio of news channels. Local sources state emphatically that Al Jazeera’s signals were not being uplinked from Egypt’s teleport to Nilesat.
Beirut-based journalist Habib Battah told the well-regarded Committee to Protect Journalists that OSN staff had confirmed the interruption of Al Jazeera’s signal by Egypt. Al Jazeera’s Cairo bureau has been closed, equipment confiscated and staff detained.
Al Jazeera itself, in a statement, says there has been “unprecedented interference” to its signals, not only from Nilesat but also from the Arabsat and Eutelsat ‘Hotbird’ satellites “forcing millions of viewers across the Arab world to change satellite frequencies throughout the day”.
However, Al Jazeera has enjoyed a remarkable level of solidarity from 10 – normally rival – news channels. The channels simply switched their own output to Al Jazeera.
An Al Jazeera spokesman said: “We have been working round the clock to make sure we are broadcasting on alternative frequencies. Clearly there are powers that do not want our important images pushing for democracy and reform to be seen by the public. We appreciate the extraordinary support from the ten channels across the region that interrupted their own programming to live-broadcast our signal to their audiences.”