Al-Jazeera suspends Egyptian channel Mubasher Misr

SHAFAQNA –  The Qatari-owned al-Jazeera network has suspended its Egyptian channel, whose coverage angered Egypt’s government.

Mubasher Misr (Live Egypt) would stop broadcasting until it had obtained “the necessary permits”, it said.

Cairo accused Mubasher Misr of serving as the mouthpiece of the Islamist supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi – something the channel denied.

It was a major source of tension between Egypt and Qatar, which backed Mr Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood.

The two countries have sought to repair relations in recent months, and on Saturday Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi held talks with a special envoy sent by the emir of Qatar.

‘Mix actions with words’

On Monday evening, a presenter on Mubasher Misr announced that it was stopping broadcasts “temporarily until the preparation of suitable circumstances in Cairo, that is, after obtaining the necessary permits in co-ordination with the Egyptian authorities”.

Al-Jazeera said it would incorporate Mubasher Misr into a new regional offering.

Mubasher Misr’s offices in Cairo were closed shortly after the military – then led by Mr Sisi – overthrew Mr Morsi in July 2013, but the channel continued to broadcast from Doha.

The next month, after launching a crackdown on the Brotherhood that left hundreds of people dead, the Egyptian authorities banned Mubasher Misr, accusing it of spreading lies and rumours that were damaging national security and unity.

Supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi protest against the military and interior ministry in Cairo, Egypt (28 November 2014)Mubasher Misr was the last remaining Egyptian channel to cover protests by the Islamist opposition
Mohammed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, Peter GresteEgypt jailed three al-Jazeera journalists – Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste – in June

Before Monday’s announcement, Mubasher Misr was the last significant Egypt-focused news channel to broadcast footage of anti-government protests by supporters of the Brotherhood – which was designated a terrorist group last December – or air their views.

In recent months, Qatar has come under pressure from other Gulf Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to end its support of the Brotherhood and other Islamist groups in the region, and to stop what they perceive as biased coverage of Egypt by the al-Jazeera network.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty told the New York Times that it supported Arab reconciliation. But he added, without elaborating: “We need to mix actions with words. Deeds are very important.”

Analysts speculated that the suspension of Mubasher Misr might ease the way for Egypt to free three journalists from al-Jazeera’s English channel, in line with a recently-approved law that allows foreign citizens to be deported rather than jailed.

Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy, who is Canadian-Egyptian, Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed, and Australian correspondent Peter Greste were sentenced to between seven and 10 years in prison in June on charges of spreading false news and supporting the Brotherhood.

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