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Bahrain: Saudi tycoon to move Rotana to Bahrain


Saudi tycoon Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has signed agreements with Bahrain to move his Rotana news and entertainment company from Cairo to boost the economy of its protest-hit ally, the official BNA agency said on Wednesday.

The move comes as Prince Alwaleed plans to launch a 24-hour news channel, Alarab, in the first half of 2013 to compete with Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabiya, and the newly-launched Sky News Arabia satellite news channels.

Prince Alwaleed said shifting Rotana to Manama from Cairo and selecting the Gulf state's capital as the headquarters of his Alarab news channel is an "important strategic decision with many important consequences."

The move comes after thorough studies of several Arab capitals and cities, he said.

Bahrain is enjoying considerable freedom of expression and wide-open dialogue despite attempts by a minority to prove the opposite, the prince was quoted as saying by BNA in an apparent reference to anti-government protests.

The small Gulf state has been hit by mass pro-democracy demonstrations since February last year, which have been violently crushed by Manama, drawing criticism from international rights groups.

Bahraini authorities continue to carry out serious human rights abuses against protesters, leading activists and journalists, according to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Gulf Center for Human Rights, as well as Amnesty International.

Bahrain's economy has been hit by the unrest as the autocratic ruling family, a key ally of Saudi's royal family, continues to resist calls for democratic reform.

Rotana's move to Bahrain is seen as an attempt to support the Gulf state's economy.

Saudi Arabia sent in troops last March to help crush the Bahraini uprising, which have persisted despite the brutal crackdown.

Alarab news channel will be added to the basket of Rotana's 12 channels, including LBC and FOX group. News Corp owns 20 percent of Rotana media group.

Alarab channel was scheduled to be launched this year but has been delayed for unknown reasons.

The news channel will compete with Doha-based Al-Jazeera, the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya, based in Dubai, and the new Sky News Arabia, based in Abu Dhabi which went on air on Sunday.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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