Bahrain News Channel Ceases Broadcasting After Opposition Interview

By RORY JONES And AHMED AL OMRAN
ahmed.alomran@wsj.com
Updated Feb. 2, 2015 6:41 a.m. ET

A new Bahrain-based news channel has ceased broadcasting following an interview with a government opposition figure and fewer than 24 hours after launching with a promise to deliver an “objective, fresh and unbiased view” of world events.

Al Arab News Channel stopped broadcasting news at about 3 a.m. Monday and has instead been showing promotional advertisements, a spokesman for the channel said.

“Transmission stopped for technical and administrative reasons. We will be back soon inshallah,” the news channel tweeted Monday.

imageThe Information Affairs Authority, Bahrain’s media regulator, said it is cooperating with the channel to resume its transmission as soon as possible, according to the state news agency.

“The channel will be provided with the needed support,” said Information Affairs Minister Isa Abdulrahman Al Hammadi at a news conference.

Al Arab began broadcasting at 4 p.m. local time in Bahrain on Sunday and featured a news bulletin that evening with Khalil Al Marzooq, a member of Bahrain’s opposition Al Wefaq Shiite party.

The Arabic-language channel at launch said it would offer regular news roundups on travel, politics, social affairs, sports and culture, with a particular focus on Saudi Arabia.

The channel is owned by Saudi billionaire Prince Al Waleed bin Talal. Kingdom Holding , in which he owns a 95% stake, has investments in companies such as Citigroup Inc., Apple Inc., Time Warner Inc. and Twitter . It also has a stake in News Corp , the owner of Dow Jones & Co. and publisher of The Wall Street Journal.

Al Arab has entered a crowded market that is dominated by Qatar-owned Al Jazeera and Saudi-owned and Dubai-based Al Arabiya.

“We felt there was a real need for an independent and impartial channel,” Jamal Khashoggi, the channel’s general manager and a veteran Saudi journalist, said in a statement upon launching.

Bahrain has seen continued political unrest since the Arab Spring uprisings began in 2011, when the country’s Shiite majority demanded democratic change from the Sunni-led government.

The government of Bahrain on Saturday revoked the nationality of 72 citizens after claiming they had damaged the national security of the country, the state news agency reported.

Mr. Marzooq was interviewed on the channel on Sunday evening, criticizing the government’s decision as politically motivated and taken without a fair trial. “Are there courts and judiciary, or are there only political decisions?” he asked.

Bahrain-based daily Akbar Alkhaleej reported earlier on Sunday that the channel was suspended for violating “common norms in Gulf countries.”

The newspaper’s editor, Anwar Abdulrahman, wrote in a column that he was “very astonished” that the channel hosted the opposition figure to comment on the news and said the decision raises questions about the “tendencies” of the channel’s editorial team.

Write to Rory Jones at rory.jones@wsj.com and Ahmed Al Omran at Ahmed.AlOmran@wsj.com

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