Arab countries seek broadcast curbs

Qatar and Lebanon voice reservations about restrictions on satellite TV stations.

    Cairo and Riyadh frequently complain that satellite channels criticise their governments [GALLO/GETTY]

    "Some satellite channels have strayed from the correct path," he said.
    One of the points in the document requires that stations "not to offend the leaders or national and religious symbols" of Arab countries.
    Al Jazeera factor
    Cairo and Riyadh frequently complain of criticism of their governments in talk shows aired by Al Jazeera and other satellite channels.
    The Cairo document authorises signatory countries to "withdraw, freeze or not renew the work permits of media which break the regulations".
    It stipulates that satellite channels "should not damage social harmony, national unity, public order or traditional values".
    It says that programming should also "conform with the religious and ethical values of Arab society and take account of its family structure".
    Religious matters
    Channels should "refrain from broadcasting anything which calls into question God, the monotheistic religions, the prophets, sects or symbols of the various religious communities".
    The document also says that broadcasters should avoid "erotic or obscene material" or programmes that "encourage smoking or the consumption of alcohol", the latter prohibited by Islam.
    They should also "protect Arab identity from the harmful effects of globalisation".
    Qatar said it was "still studying the document" and that it did not "currently want to adopt" it for legal rather than political reasons.
    Speaking to Al Jazeera, Agnes Callamard from Article 19, a press freedom organisation said: "This is turning into the next stage of censorship which is to try to prevent millions of people in the region to access information.
    "The guidelines that have been put forward are so overbroad and over reaching. They are just really trying to impose a curtain of censorship over the provision of information and simple provision of
    views," she said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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