Tuesday,25 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1131, 17 - 23 January
Tuesday,25 September, 2018
Issue 1131, 17 - 23 January

Ahram Weekly

Off the air

In the wake of a recent court ruling passed against an Islamist TV satellite channel, liberals and human rights activists stressed their opposition to restrictions on media freedom, reports Ahmed Morsy

Al-Ahram Weekly

The Administrative Court ruled on Saturday that Atef Abdel-Rashid, TV presenter at the conservative Islamist Al-Hafez satellite channel, will be banned from airing his programme Fil-Mizan for 30 days. The show’s controversial guest Sheikh Abdallah Badr will also not be allowed to make any television appearances at Al-Hafez or any other satellite channel during the same period, the court said.
The ruling was passed in response to a lawsuit filed by actress Elham Shahin, demanding the shutdown of Al-Hafez channel that hosts Badr as a permanent guest. Shahin claimed that Badr attacked her publicly after she made a statement expressing her fear over the current ascendancy of the Islamists, saying that she would not vote for Islamic political parties in any polls.
Badr is a controversial figure, known for using explicit language while attacking his opponents. Earlier, he called Shahin a “prostitute” on Abdel-Rashid’s programme. The actress sued Badr a month ago on libel charges. Badr was subsequently sentenced to one year in prison but the ruling was suspended and reduced to a LE20,000 fine in December.
In recent months, several public figures have filed lawsuits against religious preachers accusing them of defamation. In November, Masr Al-Gedida TV host and Salafi preacher Khaled Abdallah, known for his criticism of liberals, was taken off the air for 25 days by a court ruling.
The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression condemned the sentence against Al-Hafez. “The association believes that written judgement was based on purely ethical standards and has no link to the standards of media freedom that should not be subject to any restrictions except in the case of incitement which results in violence against individuals or groups,” a statement said.
“Closing satellite channels or suspending broadcasting under the pretext of ‘protecting morality’ or maintain child-rearing or other elastic terms is unacceptable.” Moreover, it cannot be accepted that the public is being treated as “immature” and unable to choose and discriminate between what he wants and what he does not want to watch, according to the statement.
“The closure of channels and suspending broadcasts as well as the imprisonment of journalists or preventing them from appearing, are all things that should be stopped if there is a serious will to promote media freedom, and overcome obstacles set by the previous regime to limit the freedom of media,” the statement added.
The crew of the Islamist channel Al-Hafez staged a sit-in in front of Gate 2 of the Media Production City on Monday afternoon, to protest against the court ruling.
“We do not object to judiciary rulings, but we reject the policy of double standards,” Ezzat Abdel-Kader, a presenter on Al-Hafez channel, said during the sit-in.
“When a court stopped broadcasting the Dream station, we condemned the ruling and the world turned upside down on the pretext of media freedom. Why do other channels not express their solidarity with us in our crisis?” Abdel-Kader asked, adding that it is possible to disagree with specific figures or programmes, “but that should not lead to cutting the livelihoods of people and workers in the satellite channel.”
Liberal political activist Hazem Abdel-Azim announced his opposition to the closure of any channel, against the gagging of any voices.
Abdel-Azim said on his personal account on twitter: “Although the Islamist channel Al-Hafez blasphemes me as Zionist, I am against its closure.”
Moreover, human rights activist Negad Al-Borai also said he was against the ruling, stressing that it is a violation of the freedom of opinion and expression by the judiciary. “There is nothing called spreading of wickedness. Opinion should be faced by opinion and not by oppression.”
Closure of any media channel is an unacceptable breach, and opens the door to media repression via legal means, Al-Borai said.
Meanwhile, the Administrative Court refused a request on Saturday to take satirist Bassem Youssef’s programme Al-Bernameg (The Programme) off the air pending his trial. A request for the temporary closure of Youssef’s CBC programme had been submitted by Muslim Brotherhood lawyer Mahmoud Abul-Enein.
The lawsuit filed by Abul-Enein claims that Youssef’s programme insulted the president and promoted corrupt morals through profanity and violation of religious values.
On the same day, the court also ruled that Dream could resume broadcasting its channels. Dream had been originally ordered to broadcast only its channels from the Media Production City, although its studios are located in Dreamland, a resort on the outskirts of Cairo.
Dream’s channels were briefly taken off the air before being permitted to return in November, and broadcast from state-owned Media Production City.

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