U.S. Cancels Hezbollah TV Satellite Feed
Al-Manar, the television station of Lebanon’s Hezbollah militants that has glorified suicide bombers, lost its satellite feed to the United States on Saturday after Washington put it on a list of terror organizations. The exclusion from U.S. TV screens came less than a week after France banned its broadcasts, but al-Manar’s troubles airing its anti-Israel message abroad don’t seem to hurt its popularity in the Arab world. The station till enjoys the support of the Lebanese and Syrian governments and a broad and sympathetic Arab audience.
The station, which ranks fourth or fifth among Lebanon’s nine stations, has drawn protests from across the globe for airing anti-Israel programs that include videos glorifying Hezbollah and other Arab suicide bombers who target Israelis, describing the attacks as “heroic martyrdom operations.” Its presenters refer to Israel as “the enemy.” “We are sorry to lose our audience in France and America. We will work to change that. Meanwhile, we still have our faithful viewers elsewhere,” said Hassan Fadlallah, Al-Manar’s news director.
The United States placed Al-Manar on its list of terrorist organizations Friday, dismissing freedom of speech objections and accusing Al-Manar of inciting violence in the Middle East. “We don’t see why here or anywhere else a terrorist organization should be allowed to spread its hatred and incitement through the television airwaves,” said U.S. State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher.
Fadlallah told The Associated Press, “This is a blatant attack on press freedoms and an exercise in intellectual terrorism against the voices that are opposed to U.S. and Israeli policies. It is part of an organized Israeli campaign against Al-Manar to keep it from transmitting the facts of the Arab-Israeli struggle.” Lebanese authorities have threatened to reciprocate against French channels for the ban. Lebanon considers Hezbollah – a militant Shiite Muslim group high on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations – to be a legitimate resistance organization fighting Israeli occupation.
Al-Manar’s broadcasts to the United States through satellite operator Intelsat, were halted Saturday, Fadlallah said. French authorities banned satellite television broadcasts by the station on Dec. 13, soon after a Nov. 23 program that quoted someone described as an expert on Zionist affairs warning of “Zionist attempts” to transmit diseases such as AIDS to Arab countries.
It’s rather hard to know where to draw the line between propaganda and legitimate press coverage, but this seems a clear enough case of the former.