New Arab-language TV channel shuts down after interviewing opposition figure

A new Arab-language satellite TV station shut down just hours after it began to broadcast from Bahrain after interviewing a Bahraini Shia opposition politician.

Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal created the station to compete with Qatar-based Al Jazeera and Saudi owned Al-Arabiya.  The station claims that it went off the air for “administrative and technical purposes,” but that explanation doesn't hold up.

Bloomberg:

The satellite station is working with Bahrain authorities “to swiftly resolve the matter, which is expected to see broadcasting resume shortly,” the country’s Information Affairs Authority said in an e-mailed statement today. Akhbar Al-Khaleej newspaper reported, without saying where it got the information, that programming was halted after the channel failed to adhere to “norms prevailing in the Gulf states,” including “neutral media attitudes.”

Alarab is the latest Arabic-language news channel to open in the oil-rich Persian Gulf region, and will compete against Doha-based Al-Jazeera and Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya satellite news channels. The Manama-based channel started broadcasting on Sunday and is backed by Prince Alwaleed, who owns Kingdom Holding Co. and has stakes in companies including Citigroup Inc. and Twitter Inc.

Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, faced the most violent demonstrations among the Gulf Cooperation Council states during the so-called Arab Spring in 2011, with mainly Shiite protesters demanding greater democracy and improved rights from the country’s Sunni rulers. Backed by security forces from other GCC states, Bahrain cracked down on the protests, leaving 35 people dead.

In one of Alarab’s first broadcasts on Sunday, it carried an interview with Khalil al-Marzooq from the Shiite party al-Wefaq, who discussed the government’s decision to strip 72 Bahraini activists of their citizenship. The channel later interviewed the country’s Information Minister Isa Abdulrahman on the same subject.

Bahrain “strongly denies” the suspension is linked to the interview with al-Marzooq, according to an e-mailed statement from the Information Affairs Authority.

As an aside, Bloomberg is the first mainstream Western media publication I've seen that refers to the "so-called" Arab Spring.  It appears that the narrative that the Arab Spring is here to stay is finally dying out.

If there's no link between the shutdown and the interview, why include in the statement that the channel failed to adhere to “norms prevailing in the Gulf states,” including “neutral media attitudes”?  No doubt, Bahraini leaders saw that interview and didn't think it appropriate that a fellow Gulf State member would undermine the official story that way.

We already know that Qatar censors Al Jazeera broadcasts to the Arab world.  Apparently, Alarab will also be constrained to report on oppression in other Arab states.  Trusting that what you see on any media outlet is the unvarnished truth is vital, and Alarab has not gotten off to an auspicious start in that department.

A new Arab-language satellite TV station shut down just hours after it began to broadcast from Bahrain after interviewing a Bahraini Shia opposition politician.

Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal created the station to compete with Qatar-based Al Jazeera and Saudi owned Al-Arabiya.  The station claims that it went off the air for “administrative and technical purposes,” but that explanation doesn't hold up.

Bloomberg:

The satellite station is working with Bahrain authorities “to swiftly resolve the matter, which is expected to see broadcasting resume shortly,” the country’s Information Affairs Authority said in an e-mailed statement today. Akhbar Al-Khaleej newspaper reported, without saying where it got the information, that programming was halted after the channel failed to adhere to “norms prevailing in the Gulf states,” including “neutral media attitudes.”

Alarab is the latest Arabic-language news channel to open in the oil-rich Persian Gulf region, and will compete against Doha-based Al-Jazeera and Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya satellite news channels. The Manama-based channel started broadcasting on Sunday and is backed by Prince Alwaleed, who owns Kingdom Holding Co. and has stakes in companies including Citigroup Inc. and Twitter Inc.

Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, faced the most violent demonstrations among the Gulf Cooperation Council states during the so-called Arab Spring in 2011, with mainly Shiite protesters demanding greater democracy and improved rights from the country’s Sunni rulers. Backed by security forces from other GCC states, Bahrain cracked down on the protests, leaving 35 people dead.

In one of Alarab’s first broadcasts on Sunday, it carried an interview with Khalil al-Marzooq from the Shiite party al-Wefaq, who discussed the government’s decision to strip 72 Bahraini activists of their citizenship. The channel later interviewed the country’s Information Minister Isa Abdulrahman on the same subject.

Bahrain “strongly denies” the suspension is linked to the interview with al-Marzooq, according to an e-mailed statement from the Information Affairs Authority.

As an aside, Bloomberg is the first mainstream Western media publication I've seen that refers to the "so-called" Arab Spring.  It appears that the narrative that the Arab Spring is here to stay is finally dying out.

If there's no link between the shutdown and the interview, why include in the statement that the channel failed to adhere to “norms prevailing in the Gulf states,” including “neutral media attitudes”?  No doubt, Bahraini leaders saw that interview and didn't think it appropriate that a fellow Gulf State member would undermine the official story that way.

We already know that Qatar censors Al Jazeera broadcasts to the Arab world.  Apparently, Alarab will also be constrained to report on oppression in other Arab states.  Trusting that what you see on any media outlet is the unvarnished truth is vital, and Alarab has not gotten off to an auspicious start in that department.