Jazeera Blames Syria for Disrupting TV News Channel Broadcasting

Al Jazeera said Syria is disrupting broadcasting of its television news channel, as unrest in the Middle Eastern country escalates and death toll rises.

Osama Saeed, a spokesman for Al Jazeera in Doha, Qatar, said the disruption is coming from the Syrian capital, Damascus. The channel is advising viewers to switch to a different frequency to access coverage, he said.

The operator of the Hot Bird satellite that transmits the TV station today confirmed the source of the recent disruption.

“Geo-localization reports indicate that recent jamming of Al Jazeera satellite signals emanates from Syria,” Eutelsat Communications SA, the Paris-based satellite provider that broadcasts about 4,000 channels, said in an e-mailed statement.

Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV channel, which is also transmitted via Hot Bird, is facing a similar issue, with the source of disruption yet to be confirmed.

“It is difficult to identify the source of the disruption, which started with the Arab revolutions,” Nasser Al Sarami, head of media at Arabiya TV, said by phone yesterday. “As we extend our coverage to what’s happening on the ground in Syria, the disruptions intensify.”

Jihad Makdissi, a spokesman for the Syrian Foreign Ministry, didn’t immediately respond to calls to his cell phone or reply to an e-mail.

Broadcasts Banned

Syrian state-controlled television has frequently criticized and banned the coverage of Al Jazeera and Arabiya of the uprising. Syrian television has accused the channels of instigating violence and guiding protests in Syria, where the United Nations estimates that more than 5,400 people have been killed since the unrest against President Bashar al-Assad began last March.

Al Jazeera is funded by the Qatari government, which has been at the forefront of Arab efforts to find a solution in Syria through the Arab League and the UN Security Council. In January, Qatar proposed sending Arab troops to Syria to halt the violence.

The pan-Arab television news broadcaster came to global prominence following the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, when it showed videotaped messages from then al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

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