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Interior Ministry shuts down 3 satellite channels accused of illegal broadcast

The Interior Ministry shuttered three satellite television channels based out of Giza on Monday, arresting their owner and chief administrator pending further investigations.

In a statement released Monday afternoon, the ministry said that the channels Art Music, Art Films and Galaxy Cinema were operating illegally without the necessary licenses, and furthermore were broadcasting outside the officially designated Media Production City zone. The ministry further charged the administrators with illegally broadcasting the channels over the French satellite station Eutelsat.

They were reportedly being run out of an apartment in the Dokki district of Giza Governorate.

The ministry’s investigations unit in Giza conducted a raid on the apartment, whereupon security personnel arrested the owner and administrator of the channels. The suspects are accused of possessing and broadcasting numerous pirated songs, movies and other artistic works. They are also accused of failing to pay royalties to the owners of these copyrighted works, or obtaining legal permission to broadcast them.

Monday’s raid is just the latest in a long list of incidents in which the authorities have clamped down on media production in Egypt. Most of the targeted channels were reportedly unlicensed channels for music and entertainment, but several others were religious and political in nature.

More than 56 satellite channels have been shut down since the military-led ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013. Citing threats to national security, officials took the Muslim Brotherhood’s Misr 25 satellite channel off air, along with the sympathetic Islamist channels Al-Hafez, Al-Nass, Ahrar 25, Al-Quds and Al-Yarmouk, among others.

Since mid-2013, media watchdogs including Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Article 19 have condemned the forced closures of channels aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood, along with the office raids, confiscation of equipment, and the arrests and prosecution of media crews by security forces.

Beyond the issues of copyright infringement and media piracy, numerous human rights organizations claim that Egypt is currently being subjected to increased censorship, gag orders and restrictions on free speech.

In December 2014, Egyptian authorities reached an agreement with their counterparts in Qatar to shut down Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr, a satellite channel that featured live news broadcasts from, and pertaining to, Egypt.

In February of this year, the Foreign Ministry called on European states to help shut down stations associated with the Muslim Brotherhood — which Egypt officially classified as a terrorist organization in December 2013 — that were broadcasting out of their respective countries.

On Monday, the popular online radio station Gramafoon announced its eminent plans for closure after a draft law was announced that would impose even further restrictions on broadcasting and telecommunications in Egypt.