IFJ Condemns Arab League Pact to Censor Satellite Broadcasters

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned a charter adopted by Arab governments to give state control over satellite broadcasters operating in their countries and that could be used to stifle independent and critical media voices.

“This charter is a step backwards from the open and challenging developments in Arab satellite broadcasting of the past few years,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “It could deal a serious blow to press freedom if it limits media to broadcasting government-friendly views,”

The IFJ says that governments should encourage media to set their own guidelines for ethical news coverage. However, the 22 governments of the Arab League this week adopted a charter that mirrors repressive laws already in place in some countries which limit free expression and permit the prosecution of journalists who criticise their governments.

The only country not to sign up was Qatar, home of satellite broadcaster Al Jazeera. According to press reports, the government is investigating whether the charter will contravene any Qatari laws.

“This is a catastrophic development at a time when there is a desperate need for a free flow of information and better understanding between nations,” said White. “It is shocking that these governments have signed up to a charter affirming principles of interference and censorship.”

In November, the Dubai government bowed to pressure from the Pakistan government to shut down the Dubai offices of Pakistan's independent Geo TV station. The IFJ condemned the decision by the political leadership in Dubai to cave in to pressure from the Musharraf government in a “censorship pact” that allowed Pakistan to reach outside its borders to stifle independent media.

Geo TV, one of Pakistan's most popular independent TV stations, has broadcast from Dubai since 2002 to avoid being shut down by the government. It has since been permitted to resume its transmissions.

For more information contact the IFJ at + 32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries