There's a new station, a new newscast and a new voice broadcasting to the people of Bahrain but it is not anywhere near the island kingdom. Lualua TV emanates from small studio in an industrial park in suburban London.
The station uses the Arabic word for pearl as its name. It was the Pearl traffic circle in the capital of Manama that became the focal point for protests before the government tore it down. Despite the name, director and Bahraini expatriate Yasser Al-Sayegh insisted the station aims for balance.
"We nothing to do with any political party in Bahrain. We are an independent channel, we share the view with all the political parties in Bahrain and we support them all the time for the struggle. Our mission is to promote democracy, promote justice in Bahrain," he said.
Al-Sayegh said he's received funding form private donors across the Arab world , but he gave no details. The station went on air from London a few weeks ago via satellite. Al-Sayegh wants it to be an alternative to state controlled television in Bahrain. There have been a number of challenges. For one, Al-Sayegh said, the four correspondents working in Bahrain work anonymously.
"Well obviously nobody knows their names. We have people here who have establish contact with them. They provide with daily reports, with video footage," al-Sayegh said.
Anchor Samah Hamdam lists another problem; trying to arrange interviews with nervous Bahrainis.
"There are some people who feel scared to talk, they always feel scared. So mostly we try to use some activists who are well known," Hamdam said. "Some of them have been detained before or they have already faced these challenges."
Hamdam is Palestinian, another on-air journalist here in London is Iraqi. No Bahrainis appear in front of the camera. That is meant to prevent anyone from threatening families back home. Hamdam understands the need for caution. Even she worries she'll have trouble if she travels to the region in the future.
"You'll be blacklisted and if you go back to the Arab area you may be questioned."
For all the worries though, the biggest obstacle right now is technical. From the day the station when on air, the signal has been jammed, apparently by someone or something in Bahrain. Al-Sayegh has begun streaming the station live over the internet as he searches for ways to get around the jamming.
The government hasn't said whether it's behind the electronic blockade, but it seems someone doesn't want Bahrainis to see something new.
LuaLua TV anchor Samah Hamdan (Photo: Laura Lynch)
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