Egyptian police raided Sat-7 channel’s Cairo offices on Oct. 10, confiscating equipment and briefly detaining the pioneer Arabic Christian broadcaster’s country office director.
Detained for hours before being released, director Farid Samir faces possible charges related to operating a satellite TV channel “without the necessary licenses,” a press release by the Sat-7 Cyprus office said two days later.
Sat-7 asserts the charges are based on a “lack of and/or incorrect information,” the statement added, stressing that its Egypt branch operates under the legal umbrella of the Coptic Evangelical Church.
First launched in 1996, Sat-7 Arabic has since expanded to include channels in Farsi and Turkish, as well as an exclusive Sat-7 Kids channel.
The channels, prominent for their outreach to Christians in the region, enjoy a non-denominational remit. An estimated 75% of Sat-7 Arabic aired shows are currently produced in studios in Egypt and Lebanon.
Sat-7 has distinguished itself from other Christian channels broadcasting mainly from outside the Middle East by keeping a sober and non-confrontational tone, adhering to a strict non-polemical Christian message.
It is now up to the Egyptian prosecutors to determine whether a case would proceed to court.
‘Aimed to serve’
During a two-hour hearing on Oct 11, police charges were brought against Samir relating to the channel’s registration, said Middle East Concern (MEC), an advocacy group monitoring the human rights of Christian communities in the Middle East and North Africa. Sat-7 is accused of failure to hold licenses for some of its editing activities and failure to comply with regulations for live streaming of broadcasts on the internet, MEC added.
The charges are dismissed by Sat-7 lawyers, who pointed to “factual errors” in the Censorship Department’s report and to evidence presented confirming Sat-7’s sound legal standing, MEC noted.
With a target of impacting an estimated total audience of well over 8.5 million people, the Sat-7 channels have become a household name for Christians in the Middle East and their growing diaspora.
The latest police action is expected to cause temporary disruption to the channel’s expressed efforts to “enrich goodwill” in a region currently racked by religious turmoil.
On the channel’s website, Samir emphasised Sat-7’s ministry as one “based on love and which aims to serve our beloved country [of Egypt].”