Is NileSat blocking Al Jazeera?

I just noticed something rather strange: I turned to Al Jazeera to take a look at their coverage of the third round of Egypt's parliamentary elections today and all I saw was one of those multi-colored standby screens. All their other channels -- Al Jazeera Live, Al Jazeera Children -- were fine. But when I switched from the Al Jazeera feed running on NileSat (the Egyptian government-owned satellite company) to the one on Hotbird (owned by a European consortium, I believe), it worked fine. I'm no broadcasting expert, but the only explanation I can think of for this is that NileSat switched off its Al Jazeera feed.

And this on a day when Al Jazeera is showing street riots in Mansoura and all kinds of turmoil in Kafr Al Sheikh, were its journalists were detained earlier today. I think most people with satellite dishes in Egypt are tuning to NileSat, which has most Arabic channels. To get another satellite, you have install a special add-on antenna on your dish and have the appropriate receiver. So my guess is that a lot people in Egypt missed Al Jazeera's coverage.

If anyone has a better explanation than a ban by the government, please leave a comment.

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region,