CAIRO - Qatar-based satellite channel Al Jazeera was ordered by Egypt's information ministry on Sunday to shut down its operations in the country, and later in the day its signal to some parts of the Middle East was cut.
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Egypt demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak's authoritarian 30-year rule, in protests that have sent shockwaves through the Arab world.
The news channel, which says it can reach 220 million households in more than 100 countries, said in a message on its broadcast that Egypt's satellite Nilesat had cut off its broadcasting signal.
That effectively took Al Jazeera off the air in some parts of the Arab world, but other signals were still available.
"Dear viewers, Al Jazeera's signal has been cut off on Nilesat," it broadcast via a signal visible in Kuwait, and gave satellite frequencies on which the channel was still available.
Earlier, Egyptian authorities ordered it to stop operations in Egypt, though correspondents were still reporting news by telephone.
"The Information Minister ordered ... suspension of operations of Al Jazeera, cancelling of its licences and withdrawing accreditation to all its staff as of today," a statement on Egypt's official Mena news agency said.
Launched in in Doha, Qatar, in 1996, Al Jazeera has more than 400 reporters in over 60 countries, according to its website.
Egypt Muslim Brotherhood members escape prison
Meanwhile, 34 members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, including 7 members of the leadership, walked out of prison in Egypt on Sunday after relatives of prisoners overcame the guards, a Brotherhood official said.
The relatives stormed the prison in Wadi el-Natroun, 120 kilometers northwest of Cairo, and set free several thousand of the inmates, Brotherhood office manager Mohamed Osama told Reuters. No one was hurt, he added.
"They are on their way to Cairo," he said. The seven leaders are from the Brotherhood's Guidance Council and they were arrested on Thursday night and Friday morning during preparations for the massive protests on Friday against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Osama named them as Mohamed Mursi, Essam el-Erian, Mohamed el-Katatni, Saad el-Husseini, Mustafa el-Ghoneimi, Muhyi Hamed and Mahmoud Abu Zeid.
Prisoners have escaped from several major prisons across Egypt since the protests on Friday, when police morale and discipline started to break down. In many parts of Egypt police have abandoned their stations.
The Muslim Brotherhood has been Egypt's largest opposition movement for decades. Its members have taken part in the last six days of protests, alongside other groups and ordinary citizens, but it has not sought to claim any leadership role.