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Bahrain closes Saudi tycoon prince's TV channel

Launched earlier this month, Alarab was on air for only a few hours before programming was suspended
Alarab News Channel staff at the editorial office in Manama on 15 December (AFP)

Bahrain on Monday announced the closure of new pan-Arab news channel Alarab owned by Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal just nine days after its launch.

"It has been decided to halt the activities of Alarab, the channel not having received the necessary permits," a statement from the Bahrain Information Affairs Authority said.

Launched on 1 February in a blaze of publicity, the channel was on the air for only a few hours before programming was interrupted "for technical and administrative reasons".

With its headquarters in Bahrain, the network looked set to be able to bypass Saudi Arabia’s severe media restrictions. 

According to the New York Times, the station's general manager, Jamal Khashoggi, has insisted that the news channel would be neutral, saying “we are not going to take sides".

One of Alarab's first segments included a Shiite opponent of Bahrain's Sunni rulers, sparking criticism in pro-government Bahraini daily Akhbar al-Khaleej.

In a column in the same newspaper, editor-in-chief Anwar Abdulrahman condemned the channel for hosting former member of parliament Khalil Marzouq, who is "radical to the core".

"Resorting to muscle flexing in news coverage, with the hope of proving that you are an independent channel, is not going to work," Abdulrahman wrote.

Alarab entered a crowded field that includes the first regional broadcaster, 19-year-old Al-Jazeera which is subsidised by Qatar.

It would have also been a rival for Dubai-based Al-Arabiya, established in 2003 and owned by Sheikh Waleed al-Ibrahim, a brother-in-law of Saudi Arabia's late King Fahd.

Alwaleed also belongs to the Saudi royal family and is a nephew of King Abdullah, who died on 23 January.