LONDON, Dec 16 (Reuters) - A UK-based satellite television channel with a link to Algeria’s banned Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) said it would start broadcasting to north Africa on Friday to give viewers what it called objective news coverage and diverse opinions.
Al Magharibia is the second television service with links to Algeria’s radical Islamist FIS to start up from the diaspora in as many months, as Algerian Islamists inspired by the success of Islamist parties elsewhere in north Africa in the wake of the “Arab Spring” seek to push for political change at home.
Al Magharbiyia said in a statement it aimed to “weave links between the peoples of the Maghreb and to contribute to giving citizens the right to access credible news ... and offering a forum permitting the expression of various opinions, contradictory though they may be”.
The statement by editor in chief Salim Salhi made no mention of who was financing the service. But an official of the channel, who declined to be identified because of what he described as the sensitivity of the topic, said the channel was supported by a number of north African businessman.
Among them was Oussama Abbasi, a son of Qatar-based FIS leader Abbasi Madani, the official said.
In the early 1990s, Islamists under the banner of the outlawed FIS took leadership of street riots and pushed the government to widen political freedoms and liberty of the press.
But the army cancelled elections in 1992 which the FIS looked set to win, plunging Algeria into a vortex of violence that killed at least 150,000 according to independent estimates.
Most Islamists in Algeria have been excluded from political life since the conflict, but in the past few months they have shown renewed signs of activity, much of it conducted from exile to dodge the attentions of the Algerian state.
The Al Magharibia official said the channel would broadcast several hours a day, in Arabic, Amazigh or Berber, and French, with up to 80 percent of its content aimed at Algerians. It would also cover Tunisia, Morocco and Libya.
Despite the link to FIS, the channel would not be a “party television” and would be at pains to include all points of view in the spirit of pluralism, the official said.
It was staffed by professional journalists and technicians, he said. Salhi is not a member of the FIS.
Al Magharibia is not the first channel started by Algeria’s newly assertive Islamist community.
In November a group of exiled Islamists with links to FIS set up a Europe-based television station, called Rachad TV. it is carried by the Atlantic Bird 7 and Nilesat satellites, as is Al Magharibia, the station can be picked up in Algeria, where most homes have a dish.
Editing by Alison Williams