The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

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.