Egypt shuts more private TVs, arrests opposition

AP News
Posted: Oct 19, 2010 4:53 PM
Egypt shuts more private TVs, arrests opposition

Egypt has shut down more private television channels and arrested dozens of opposition members in the latest crackdown on media and the Muslim Brotherhood ahead of next month's crucial parliamentary elections.

Tensions are rising as the balloting nears and although the election date hasn't been set, voting is expected in late November.

Egypt's main satellite operator said Tuesday it shut down 12 private television channels on grounds of violating broadcasting licenses. Information Minister Annas el-Fiqi described the ban by NileSat as "corrective measures" to protect the Egyptian and Arab viewers from the offending channels. NileSat also warned 20 other channels to obey regulations.

Earlier this month, Egypt's Media Free Zone ordered the suspension of licenses of five channels after accusing them of violating the terms of their contracts with NileSat and breaching broadcasting ethics.

The shutdowns followed last week's move by Egypt's telecommunications regulator, which set new rules for companies sending text messages to multiple mobile phones. Under the new rules, companies sending out text messages _ known as SMS aggregators _ must now obtain licenses.

Activists say the move will stifle efforts to mobilize voters ahead of the upcoming elections.

Meanwhile, Egypt's largest opposition Islamist group said Tuesday that police detained 164 Muslim Brotherhood members, most of them election campaign workers, in a spate of raids across the country.

Essam el-Arian, a leading Brotherhood member, said the arrests took place over the past days in an effort to "intimidate" the group after it announced its intention to contest the November elections.

A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, confirmed that police rounded up more than 150 members of the opposition group.

The Brotherhood, which is officially banned but is allowed to field candidates as independents, has faced a heavy government crackdown since its surprise showing in the 2005 elections. Thousands of Brotherhood activists have been arrested in recent years, including some of the group's leading members and financiers.

Malcolm Smart, a spokesman for the London-based Amnesty International, said Tuesday the latest arrests seek to "disrupt Muslim Brotherhood campaigning and deter people from supporting the organization in the coming elections."

Amnesty, which had reported 70 arrests of Brotherhood members, urged the authorities to either release those detained or raise official charges against them.