Alcohol-free Saudi Arabia has totally banned youngsters and teenagers under 18 from visiting coffee bars, and the government is warning the coffee shop owners that they must only screen TV programming from Arabsat.
Coffee bars are favourite places for youngsters to hang out, and frequently will be packed out with viewers watching soccer matches. But the screens can also be used to watch programming from outside Saudi Arabia, and Cairo-based Nilesat is a favourite satellite operator as is Eutelsat’s ‘Hot Bird’ fleet of satellites.
The Arabic language newspaper Al Watan says Saudi authorities are ordering that coffee shops must not have access to any satellite TV facilities except Arabsat. “A government committee has issued a decision banning the transmission of Nilesat TV channels at cafes and restricting TV channels to Arabsat,” the newspaper said.
“The committee has also told cafes not to admit persons under 18 years of age and warned that cafes which violate the decision would be shut down permanently,” the paper added without mentioning reasons for such a move.
Last week, Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti religious leader, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh urged viewers to be cautious and “wary of misleading ideas and information broadcast by top satellite channels in the name of Islam that are aimed at fostering terrorism and extremist agendas”. He criticised extremist groups operating around the world for falsely claiming that they are abiding by Islamic law. In his speech, Al-Asheikh said their actions show that they are continuing to defy religious precepts.