Backed by a Saudi prince, whose investment firm has stakes in Apple, News Corp and Twitter, the new Alarab television station was supposed to celebrate its first few days broadcasting this week, covering “all views” in the region.
But yesterday, after only hours on air, the Bahrain-based network appeared to have fallen foul of state censors.
A prominent opposition activist Khalil al-Marzooq was one of the first guests booked after the station went live on Sunday.
By yesterday morning, however, the station was blaming “technical and administrative reasons” for its lack of programming.
Yusuf Mohammed, the media director at Bahrain’s Information Affairs Authority, cited similar reasons in comments to the official Bahrain News Agency. He said the authorities are working with Alarab management “to swiftly resolve the matter”.
A brief front-page article in the pro-government Akhbar al-Khaleej newspaper said the suspension was “related to the failure of those in charge to abide by the prevailing norms in the Gulf, including the neutrality of media positions and staying away from anything that could negatively impact the spirit of Gulf unity”.
Mr Marzooq is a senior member of al-Wefaq, the country’s main Shia political bloc. He was cleared of allegations of instigating violence last year. He was asked on the channel to discuss Bahrain’s decision to revoke the citizenship of 72 people.
Alarab’s general manager, Jamal Khashoggi, told reporters in December that the network “will cover all views” and would not shy away from sensitive topics in Bahrain. It is backed by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding investment company.