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The Mideast

Egyptian court bans four television stations, including Al-Jazeera affiliate

MBprotest.jpg

Nov. 16, 2012: Protesters led by senior Muslim Brotherhood figure Mohammed el-Beltagy and former member of the Egyptian Parliament, Essam Soltan, unseen, chant slogans against the Israeli invasion of Gaza, in Al-Azhar mosque after Friday prayers in Cairo, Egypt. The fugitive leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood denied media allegations that his group is waging a 'terror' campaign. (AP/Thomas Hartwell, File)

An Egyptian court on Tuesday ordered the closure of four television channels, including Al-Jazeera’s local affiliate and networks sympathetic to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The decision by the administrative court, according to the state news agency, said the channels had operated illegally and was expected amid escalating efforts by government officials against the television station and other media outlets it considers supportive to ousted President Mohamed Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood group.

Al-Jazeera officials were not immediately available for comment, The Associated Press reports.

The other stations affected by the decision include a channel affiliated with Hamas – the Islamic group currently ruling the Gaza Strip – an Islamist network based in Jordan and Ahrar 25, which is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. The latter station sprang up after authorities shut down its licensed Misr 25 television channel and four Islamic networks sympathetic to the deposed president on the day he was ousted.

Three government ministries issued a statement last week calling the broadcasts of Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr a “national threat,” accusing it of spreading rumors. The ministers also said the channel used satellite transmission without a license and disseminated “claims which are harmful to Egyptian national security and threaten the country’s unity.”

The station closely covered Brotherhood protests following the July 3 military coup that ousted Morsi after millions of Egyptians flooded streets demanding he step down.  In recent weeks, Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr began broadcasting recorded messages from Brotherhood members who are wanted by authorities.

Al-Jazeera’s local offices were raided after Morsi was deposed and 28 staffers were detained before being released. Officials said earlier that the Al-Jazeera affiliate continued to broadcast live from protests using a stolen van owned by Egyptian state television.

The court ruling comes a day after a panel of Egyptian judges recommended the dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood, accusing the 85-year-old group of operating outside the law. It also recommended the closure of its Cairo headquarters. The recommendation is nonbinding for the court, which holds its next hearing on Nov. 12.

The Brotherhood rose to prominence in Egyptian politics after the 2011 uprising that forced longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak from power. The group then formed a political party and won majority seats in the parliament. Its candidate, Morsi, became the country's first Islamist president.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.