Opposition to the Arab satellite TV charter is growing. This week the Arab Ministers of Information agreed on the adoption of a charter regulating ‘Principles for Organising Satellite TV in the Arab World’. The meeting was convened in Cairo on Tuesday February 12, 2008 at the request of Egypt and with the support of Saudi Arabia. The final non-binding document, adopted by all member states of the Arab League with the exception of Qatar and Lebanon, requires Satellite TV broadcasting in the region:
- not to offend the leaders or national and religious symbols in the Arab world;
- not to damage social harmony, national unity, public order or traditional values;
- to conform with the religious and ethical values of Arab society and take account of its family structure;
- to refrain from broadcasting anything which calls into question God, the monotheistic-religions, the prophets, sects or symbols of the various religious communities; and
- to protect Arab identity from the harmful effects of globalisation”.
The document threatens to “withdraw, freeze or not renew the work permits of media which will break the regulations”. It calls on member states to introduce all necessary measures in their national legislations in order to ensure that the document’s principles are fully implemented.
The charter has already provoked protests from Al Jazeera, which says the charter is “a risk to the freedom of expression in the Arab world. Some of the language contained within the Charter is ambiguous and could be interpreted to actively hinder independent reporting from the region.”
A protest was also issued by the Article 19 organisation. “These principles constitute a major set back to freedom of the press and freedom of expression in the Arab world. They attempt to muzzle what has become the main source of independent news and information for millions of people in the region. Once again, intolerance and control prevail over freedom and the free and diverse flow of information.”said Dr Agnes Callamard, Article 19’s executive director.