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Less Than A Day Old, Bahrain News Channel Is Yanked Off The Air

Advertising on a skyscraper in Manama, Bahrain, shows news anchors for the newly launched Al-Arab TV network. The pan-Arab channel began broadcasting Sunday but was suspended Monday after it aired an interview with a critic of Bahrain's monarchy.
Hasan Jamali
/
AP
Advertising on a skyscraper in Manama, Bahrain, shows news anchors for the newly launched Al-Arab TV network. The pan-Arab channel began broadcasting Sunday but was suspended Monday after it aired an interview with a critic of Bahrain's monarchy.

A new pan-Arab television channel, Al-Arab, began broadcasting Sunday afternoon from the Gulf nation of Bahrain. By dawn Monday, it was off the air.

"Broadcast stopped for technical and administrative reasons. We will be back soon, inshallah [God willing]," the news channel wrote Monday on its Twitter feed.

Al-Arab's apparent offense was broadcasting an interview with Khalil al-Marzooq, a prominent critic of Bahrain's monarchy.

A pro-government newspaper, Akhbar Al-Khaleej, said that Al-Arab was suspended because the channel did not "heed the prevailing norms of the Gulf states."

Arab satellite channels such as Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya have dramatically expanded news coverage and debate across the Arab world, but they refrain from criticizing rulers in the countries where they are based. Al-Jazeera has its headquarters in Qatar and Al-Arabiya is based in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.

The new competitor in the field, Al-Arab, is owned by Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal. A prominent international investor, he has large stakes in many big-name companies, including Citigroup, Apple, Time Warner and Twitter.

"We felt there was a real need for an independent and impartial channel," Jamal Khashoggi, the channel's general manager, said recently in a statement.

But at about 3 a.m. Monday, Al-Arab stopped showing programs and went to promotional advertisements, The Wall Street Journal reported. The channel was working with officials in Bahrain's Information Affairs Department in an attempt to resume broadcasting, the newspaper added.

Bahrain faced months of political unrest during the Arab uprisings of 2011. The protests were led by Shiite Muslims who make up a majority of the population but complain they are discriminated against by the Sunni-dominated leadership.

The current monarch, Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, has been in power since 2002 and is part of a dynasty that has ruled Bahrain for more than two centuries.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Greg Myre is a national security correspondent with a focus on the intelligence community, a position that follows his many years as a foreign correspondent covering conflicts around the globe.

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