Saudi Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal’s Al Arab news channel has been shut permanently by Bahraini authorities after only a single day of broadcasting. The Bahrain Information Affairs Authority (IAA) issued a statement declaring the ban, which began Feb. 1 after the channel had only been on air for one day, would now be permanent. “It has been decided to halt the activities of Al Arab, the channel not having received the necessary permits,” read the statement.
The statement, posted on the IAA’s website, also accused the channel of failing “to match the standards of regional and international practice agreements, to take account of efforts aimed at stemming the tide of extremism and terrorism throughout the region and the wider world.”
There’s irony in the Bahraini authorities’ decision: The Prince chose to base his channel there on the assurance of editorial independence and generous financial subsidies.
Al Arab’s troubles appear to stem from broadcasting an interview with the Bahraini opposition activist Khalil al-Marzooq in which he discussed the Bahraini government’s decision to revoke — without prior notice or legal process — the citizenship of 72 people. Journalists, bloggers and human rights activists are believed to be among the affected, as well as a number of ISIS-affiliated extremists.
Authorities in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are particularly sensitive over the opposition movement and the potential challenge they pose to the ruling family. In 2011, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states sent armed forces into Bahrain to crush protests in the country led by the Shia majority.
The permanent shuttering of the channel is a major public slap in the face for the high-profile and normally influential Prince Al Waleed, whose holding company Kingdom has stakes in the likes of Citigroup and Twitter, in addition to 21st Century Fox.\