Iraqi Sunni Al-Zawraa TV now carried on Saudi-based Arabsat
Friday, January 26th, 2007

On Friday 26 January BBC Monitoring observed Al-Zawraa TV, a Sunni satellite channel that targets viewers in Iraq and the Middle East, transmitting on Badr 4, one of the Arabsat satellites, at 26 degrees east. Al-Zawraa also continues to be carried on the Egyptian-run Nilesat satellite.

Arabsat, based in Saudi Arabia, is an intergovernmental organization established originally by the Arab League. Saudi Arabia is the main stakeholder.

Al-Zawraa’s founder is Mishan al-Jaburi, a former member of the Iraqi parliament and leader of the Sunni Arab Front for Reconciliation and Liberation. The US has expressed concern about the content of the channel’s broadcasts. An unnamed US official quoted by United Press International news agency on 14 January said: “We are very concerned about this. Al-Zawraa is glorifying the killing of American and Iraqi government officials, which we strongly object to. This needs to be taken care of… This should never have been on air in the first place, much less over the satellite of a country that professes to be a friend of the United States.”

Al-Zawraa is now based in Syria, after its studios in Iraq were closed by the Iraqi Interior Ministry in November 2006, for allegedly inciting violence and terrorism. The Iraqi government has also asked Egypt to remove Al-Zawraa from the Nilesat satellite. So far, Egypt has refused to take Al-Zawraa off the air, saying that the channel’s broadcasts are a purely commercial arrangement.

The furore over the channel’s broadcasts comes at a time of increasing tensions between Sunnis and Shi’is in the Arab world.

(Source: BBC Monitoring research 26 Jan 07)