03/17/2010, 00.00
PALESTINE

Palestinian Authority shuts down the only Christian TV broadcaster in the Territories

After 14 years on the air, the government shuts down the only Palestinian Christian TV station. Located about 350 metres from Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, the station broadcast shows with social, religious, economic and cultural content. Its general manager tells AsiaNews the order is unfair, stressing the high regard in which viewers held the station.
Bethlehem (AsiaNews) – The Palestinian National Authority has shut down Al-Mahed “Nativity” TV for operating without a licence. Samir Qumsieh, owner and general manager of the Christian broadcaster, slammed the decision. After 14 years on the air and despite a long list of “thank you letters” by grateful viewers, Palestinian police raided the broadcaster’s offices yesterday at 2 pm. Waving an order by the Interior Ministry, they put the station off the air.

Contacted by AsiaNews, Mr Qumsieh said he was baffled by the order, which for him was “unjustified”.

Located on high ground at about 350 metres from the Church of Nativity, in Bethlehem, Al-Mahed “Nativity” TV was for years the “only Christian voice” among Palestinian media.

It broadcast programmes in all sorts of domains, from education to the environment, from politics to local culture and society, as well as programmes with a religious content: masses, prayers and the most important celebrations on the liturgical calendar. Its audience was not limited to Christians but included Muslims as well.

According to unconfirmed reports that reached AsiaNews, the closure appears to be financially motivated. Palestinian authorities demanded money, a “licence” that was not paid.

In a letter addressed to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Mr Qumsieh slammed the unjustified closure of the Christian TV station because of the “lack of a licence”.

He said that 14 years of broadcasting earned the station the gratitude of viewers as demonstrated by the many thank you letters and e-mails, worthy of a “Guinness world record”.

In his letter to the authorities, he said that he “would not beg” to have the station re-opened. The “ingratitude” shown to him is “unacceptable by any religion, logic or conscience”.

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