EGYPT
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Mohammed Mursi

Al-Jazeera demands US$150m from Egypt for damages, journalist abuse

Qatar-based satellite broadcaster says business was damaged and its journalists mistreated

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 April, 2014, 9:43pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 April, 2014, 9:43pm

The Qatar-based satellite network Al-Jazeera served Egypt with a US$150 million compensation claim for what it said was damage to its media business inflicted by Cairo's military-backed rulers, a step likely to worsen Qatari-Egyptian relations.

In a move aimed at drawing attention to what Al-Jazeera calls Egypt's unacceptable treatment of it and its journalists, a lawyer acting for the pan-Arab channel said on Monday he had handed a legal document detailing the claim to a representative of the Egyptian government.

Egypt had begun a "sustained campaign" against Al-Jazeera and its journalists after the army toppled Islamist president Mohammed Mursi in July last year, said Cameron Doley, a lawyer at London law firm Carter-Ruck, which is handling the case.

"Al-Jazeera invested substantial sums in Egypt," said Doley. "The effect of this recent campaign by the military government is that this investment has been expropriated. Egypt is bound by international law to pay Al-Jazeera just and effective compensation."

Cairo had six months to settle the claim, filed in the context of a bilateral investment treaty, he said, or face an international tribunal.

A government spokesman declined to comment on the issue, saying authorities had not received notice of the case.

Al-Jazeera has invested at least US$90 million in operations in Egypt since it started broadcasting in the Arab world's largest country in 2001, according to company figures. That stake has included infrastructure and running costs for its four channels, purchase of fixed assets like broadcasting equipment, regulatory fees paid to the Egyptian state and staff costs.

The US$150 million claim would also cover anticipated future losses arising from the effective shutdown of Al-Jazeera's Egypt operations, Doley said.

Qatar, a Gulf Arab monarchy that funds Al-Jazeera, backs Mursi's deposed Muslim Brotherhood, which Cairo has declared a "terrorist" group.