Al-Jazeera’s New Competition Pulled After 18 Hours on Air

February 4, 2015  

A television news channel founded this week by Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and which aimed at challenging Al-Jazeera lasted all of 18 hours before being pulled by Bahrain.

According to the Khaleej Times newspaper, Bahraini authorities suspended the Alarab television channel 18 hours after its launch, following an interview it broadcast with an aide to a Bahraini opposition leader.

The channel blamed technical and administrative reasons for its being taken off the air, without giving details, but a Bahraini newspaper and a source familiar with the matter said the channel had been suspended for violating media neutrality.

According to the Khaleej Times, the suspension was “related to the failure of those in charge to abide by the prevailing norms in the Gulf, including the neutrality of media positions and staying away from anything that could negatively impact the spirit of Gulf unity”.

That appeared to refer to the interview with Marzouq, an aide to Sheikh Ali Salman, the detained Secretary-General of Bahrain’s main opposition movement. It was broadcast after the channel officially went on the air on Sunday.

A source familiar with the affairs of the news channel said Bahraini officials had delivered the suspension order on a visit to the station over issues of “journalistic neutrality”.

A Bahraini official, however, said the suspension had “nothing to do with the Marzouq interview”. The official noted that Alarab had also broadcast an interview with Information Minister Isa Abdulrahman later in the day.

Salman is on trial on charges of promoting regime change by force, a charge he denies, noted Khaleej Times.

A brief statement on its Twitter account, Alarab was quoted as having said, “The channel stopped broadcasting for technical and administrative reasons.” The statement added that “we will come back soon”.

Alarab is meant to challenge the existing Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera, which has come under particular criticism and has been branded “the Muslim Brotherhood channel” due to its coverage in favor of the Islamist group.

Like many other countries during the Arab Spring, Bahrain saw political upheaval linked to opposition demands for a real constitutional monarchy, with the unrest claiming at least 80 lives, according to international rights groups.

Bahrain’s government admitted that it used excessive force and mistreated detainees during the unrest that rocked the country.

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