Saudi may shut TV offices over 'sex' talk show

RIYADH, Paul Handley - The Saudi offices of a Lebanon-based satellite station controlled by tycoon Prince Alwaleed bin Talal could face closure over a racy talk show featuring a man boasting about his sex life, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.
The local operations of the Saudi billionaire's broadcaster LBC could be shut down because of the "offensive nature" of the programme, Abdullah al-Othaim, a senior district judge in Jeddah, told the pan-Arab Asharq Al-Awsat.

Saudi may shut TV offices over 'sex' talk show
Contacted by AFP, LBC chief executive Pierre Daher said the company had decided not to comment publicly on the controversy.
Jeddah investigators continued to examine evidence to see what charges would be filed against Saudi citizen Mazen Abdul-Jawad, whose discussion of his sex life on LBC's "Bold Red Line" in July led to his arrest on Friday.
Two other men who took part in the programme were also arrested, while a fourth fled to Morocco, local newspapers cited Saudi police as saying.
Abdul-Jawad's confessions -- that he first had sex at 14 with a neighbour, used sex aids and liked to use his cellphone's Bluetooth function to try to pick up women -- outraged Saudi conservatives.
His actions allegedly violated strict Islamic sharia law, the basis of the Saudi legal system, media reports said.
Jeddah police spokesman Suleiman al-Mutawae told AFP on Sunday that it could take time to determine the charges against Abdul-Jawad, a Saudi Airlines employee thought to be in his 30s, because there was no legal precedent.
A five-minute clip from the show on Youtube, viewed more than 430,000 times but now blocked by the government censor, has sparked intense criticism from conservatives on Saudi Internet sites and triggered calls for government action.
It shows a casually dressed Abdul-Jawad sitting in an apartment talking about his sexual activities. He has since apologised in interviews with local papers, accusing the show's producers of breaking a pledge to mask his face.
It was not clear whether Abdul-Jawad was filmed in Saudi Arabia or Lebanon.
The case has focused attention on LBC, which broadcasts across the Arab world and hosts one of the most popular regional programmes, the music contest and reality show "Star Academy."
Through LBC and his regional entertainment company Rotana, Alwaleed has pushed hard to break down Saudi Arabia's tough bans on cinemas and popular music concerts and its taboos on salacious or non-Islamic television content.
But he has come under stiff opposition from conservatives. In July, the first ever Jeddah Film Festival, sponsored by Rotana, was cancelled the day before it opened because of pressure from fundamentalist clerics.
That move temporarily forced Rotana to shelve plans to begin showing films publicly inside the kingdom.
A nephew of King Abdullah, Alwaleed has royal status and his wealth is estimated by Forbes magazine at 13.3 billion dollars. His status and riches have protected his promotion of entertainment and women's rights.
In recent months, however, his conservative brother Prince Khalid bin Talal has lashed out at him several times for violating Islamic principles and promoting what he called immorality.

Tuesday, August 4th 2009
Paul Handley

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