NICOSIA, Cyprus (ABP) – A satellite television network for and run by Christians in the Middle East said Feb. 24 that programming thought to have been blocked by Libya has been restored.
Officials at SAT-7, a network targeted to minority Christian communities in the Middle East and North Africa, said Feb. 23 they do not believe their programming was the target. Rather it is suspected the Libyan government wanted to scramble broadcasts from Al Jazeera, which shares a satellite with SAT-7, to block coverage of the country’s current political unrest.
The interference affected two SAT-7 packages — SAT-7 Arabic and SAT-7 kids, the newest of four SAT-7 network options started in 2007 as the first and only Arabic Christian channel exclusively for children.
About 300 million Arabic-speaking peoples live in the Middle East and North Africa, and about half have access to satellite TV. Though predominantly Muslim, many countries have indigenous Christian populations. Some have been around for centuries and trace their history to the time of Jesus’ apostles. Others are newer, the product of modern missionaries from the West.
Only a small number of Libyans are Christians, but there are many expatriate Christians, especially Coptic Christians from Egypt, still inside the country.
“SAT-7 is concerned that the ongoing signal jamming will deny its viewers, both young and old alike, access to a much needed source of encouragement and hope through these turbulent times,” officials said in a press release.
The press release asked international partners to “continue to pray during this time of distress and uncertainty for so many nations” and that SAT-7 would be able to continue “broadcasting messages of life, peace and hope … to millions of viewers during this critical time.“
Not all broadcasting frequencies used by SAT-7 were affected. Officials estimated that about 8 million viewers were denied access.
Launched in 1996 as the dream of a British Christian publisher named Terence Ascott, SAT-7 is governed by an international board of directors, the majority of whom must be local Christian leaders living in the Middle East or North Africa.
The network has about 140 Middle Eastern Christians working in ministry offices and studios in Cyprus, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt. The Lebanon office is next door to Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut. Fund-raising offices are located in Europe, the UK, Canada and the United States .
International SAT-7 partners include BMS World Mission in the UK and American Baptist Churches USA in North America.
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.