Government to Shut Down Channels Threatening National Unity

Saudi Arabia will shut down satellite television channels that threaten national unity or instigate sedition in society, al-Watan daily reported Friday. The Minister of Culture and Information Abdulaziz Khoja told the newspaper that the ministry is working on a new set of regulations to stop such channels.

“National unity is a red line that must not be crossed,” he said, adding that his ministry cannot accept any calls for hatred and division in society.

Koja decided in September 2010 to shut down al-Osra channel, owned by Saudi preacher Mohammed al-Habdan, for airing fatwas after the government decided to limit the issuing of fatwas to a number of licensed bodies.

King Abdullah ordered last March to shut down a channel after it aired a program that raised complaints from citizens in the southern region of Najran. The Saudi-owned Awtan channel was shut down after they hosted a cleric who made statements that leaders of the Ismaili tribe of Yam considered racist and offending.

The decision to close Awtan triggered demands by some Shia citizens to ask for the closure of other channels accused of airing anti-Shia programming like Safa and Wesal. Last week, Wesal hosted a debate between between Ibrahim al-Fares, a Sharia professor at KSU, and writer Hasan al-Malki. After a heated debate that lasted three episodes, the moderator ended the show with a long anti-Shia rant.