The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Egyptian satellite broadcasting Iraq insurgents

Lawrence Pintak has a very interesting story about a dispute between the US and Egypt over a Iraqi jihadi channel airing on NileSat, the Egyptian government-owned satellite system:

Al Zawraa, a television version of the now-infamous jihadi websites, is being broadcast across the Arab world by Nilesat, a satellite provider answerable to the Egyptian government.

The Iraqi station features non-stop scenes of US troops being picked off by snipers, blown up by roadside bombs and targeted by missiles.

"We find the channel utterly offensive," said one US diplomat. Getting the Egyptians to pull the plug is "at the top of our agenda."

But the Egyptian government insists it's all just business.

"For us, it means nothing," Egyptian Information Minister Anas Al Fiqi told me. "It is a channel that reserved an allocation on Nilesat. They had a contract, paid the fees. There is nothing political for Nilesat. It's pure business. We have no concern what the channel is doing."
Hey, I have an idea. Can I buy a channel on NileSat for Kifaya and the Muslim Brotherhood? I want to air a soap opera about life inside the Mubarak household. An Everybody Loves Hosni kind of thing.

Anyway, read on for the interesting details on how Egypt has resisted pressure to drop the channel -- including threats against the Egyptian embassy in Baghdad -- despite having quite a hands-on role in the affair, since it is not just relaying the channel but actually broadcasting taped footage on repeat from Cairo since last December. Arguments about freedom of speech seem moot: NileSat is not a platform for freedom of speech anyway, and if the channel is as nasty as reported, it should drop it.