Saudi Arabia launches Persian-language TV and radio channels
Saudi Minister of Culture and Information Adel al-Toraifi on Tuesday night launched new TV and radio channels targeting Persian-speaking viewers, according to the Saudi News Agency.
The Hajj 1436 channels will be dedicated to covering Hajj rituals in Mecca and Medinah "in order to highlight the eternal message of Hajj and the great meanings of Islam", says Toraifi.
The channels will present documentary programs on how the Saudi leadership and people serve the Two Holy Mosques, pilgrims, visitors, and Umrah performers.
Toraifi also said the TV network would broadcast through four satellites, including Arabsat, Nilesat, Yahsat and Hotbird, to reach about 130 million Persian speakers around the world.
The channels will air from Mecca, with a production team of more than 80 media personnel working in shifts 24 hours a day.
The launch of Hajj 1436 comes as nearly two million Muslim pilgrims from around the world flock to Mecca to perform the Hajj, one of five pillars of Islam.
Many Saudis have expressed their support, describing the service as a "long-awaited" move that would help counter Iran's "ideologised media".
"Every Sunni Muslim should be proud of this channel," one user tweeted.
"Saudi Arabia has launched a long-awaited Persian-language channel to present the real image of the Kingdom and Islam for Persian speakers," another user tweeted.
Bilateral relations between Shia-majority Iran, where Persian is the official language, and Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia have been strained over a variety of geopolitical issues such as aspirations for regional leadership, oil export policy and relations with the US and the West - as well as more fundamental theological divisions over the interpretation of Islam.