Bahrain: Shut channel lacked license, anti-terror standards
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahrain said Monday it suspended a new pan-Arab news channel backed by a billionaire Saudi prince within hours of its first broadcast because it failed to obtain a proper license and did not meet anti-terrorist standards.
The Alarab network disappeared from TV screens early on Feb. 2, a day after its launch. Bahrain initially declined to explain why.
The government’s Information Affairs Authority said Monday that the station does not possess a valid Bahraini operating license. It said Alarab failed to meet standards “aimed at stemming the tide of extremism and terrorism,” according to the official Bahrain News Agency.
Alarab officials declined to comment. The network’s website was blank except for a logo Monday.
One of Alarab’s first broadcast interviews was with government critic Khalil al-Marzooq, a top official in the largest Shiite opposition bloc in the Sunni-ruled kingdom.
Al-Marzooq and other Shiite lawmakers withdrew from Bahrain’s parliament in 2011 following protests seeking democratic reforms. He was acquitted last year of “inciting terrorism,” a charge that human rights groups called politically motivated.
Bahrain, an island nation that hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, has faced four years of instability following anti-government protests in February 2011 driven by its Shiite majority.
Alarab is headquartered in the landmark World Trade Center in the capital, Manama. The network is bankrolled by Saudi royal family member Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, whose Kingdom Holding Co. investment firm has stakes in many companies including Citigroup Inc., Apple Inc., News Corp. and Twitter.