BEIRUT (Reuters) - Egyptian satellite company NileSat has stopped broadcasting Hezbollah-controlled Lebanese television channel Al Manar, an official said on Wednesday, a move the Iranian-backed group condemned as part of a campaign by Gulf Arab states against it.
“This is completely in line with the attack launched by some Arab regimes on the resistance (Hezbollah) in all sectors, including the media,” Hezbollah said in a statement.
Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Beirut have been brewing since January. Riyadh is worried Hezbollah has too much power in Lebanon. Saudi Arabia and Iran are regional rivals.
Saudi Arabia cut $3 billion in military aid to Lebanon after the Lebanese government failed to condemn an attack on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran in January.
On Friday, the Saudi-owned television news channel Al Arabiya shut its offices in Lebanon. On the same day, protesters attacked the Beirut office of Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq al-Awsat in response to a cartoon published by the paper criticizing the Lebanese state.
There have also been reports from Gulf countries, including Kuwait and Bahrain, about Lebanese citizens being expelled because of links to Hezbollah.
Saudi Arabia has lavished aid on Egypt since its military overthrew an Islamist government in 2013, and while ties have been strained over the past year, Cairo has broadly followed Riyadh’s lead on regional politics.
NileSat stopped broadcasting Al Manar to subscribers late on Tuesday, although the channel can be received in Lebanon through other broadcast media.
A NileSat official, who asked not to be named, would not comment on the reason for the broadcast ceasing, but said: “The usual terms (of the company) prohibit the use of satellite media to broadcast programs which call for violence or racism or incite sectarianism.”
Al Manar said in statements on its TV channel: “NileSat is trading in flimsy excuses and its claims of inciting discord do not fool anyone.”
Reporting by Lisa Barrington in Beirut and Mohamed Abdellah in Cairo; Editing by Janet Lawrence