Saudi Arabia bans all satellite dishes

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The Independent Online
RIYADH (AFP) - Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry has issued orders that all satellite dishes must be taken down and removed from the country within a month, according to a statement broadcast yesterday by the official news agency, SPA.

Saudi ministers first banned the import or manufacture of satellite dishes in March, after strenuous complaints were made by religious leaders.

Now residents are banned from owning dishes. 'Owners of satellite dishes or associated equipment can re-export them abroad within a month,' the official statement said. Anyone found owning or importing a dish faces fines of between 100,000 rials (pounds 23,300) and 500,000 rials and the confiscation of the dish.

The Interior Ministry will now choose which of the satellite programmes respect Saudi 'religious and social values' and arrange for them to be shown on cable television.

Satellite dishes mushroomed throughout Saudi Arabia during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 which led to the Gulf war from January to February 1991. Saudis eagerly followed the progress of the war moment by moment on the United States station, Cable News Network (CNN).

During the first few months of the Gulf crisis, at least 20,000 satellite dishes sprang up in the kingdom, according to Western sources. The Saudi press has often joined religious leaders in attacking satellite TV stations, which it condemns for constituting 'a threat to traditional values' in Saudi society.