French regulators want Al-Manar TV off air

30th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 30 (AFP) - French broadcast regulators announced Tuesday they were seeking to take off the air in the European Union a satellite television station linked to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah because of licence violations. ]

PARIS, Nov 30 (AFP) - French broadcast regulators announced Tuesday they were seeking to take off the air in the European Union a satellite television station linked to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah because of licence violations. ]

The High Audiovisual Council (CSA) said it would ask France's superior administrative court to order the Eutelsat satellite company "to cease transmitting the station".

Communication Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres told parliament he hoped the station, Al-Manar, would be taken off the satellite "very soon" and added that the French government was ready to take "the legal measures necessary" to ensure that happened.

The move to cancel the licence - which the CSA gave to the Al-Manar station less than two weeks ago - came after several "serious defaults regarding the contractual agreements" to which the channel is subject, the CSA said in a statement.

Most notably, on November 23, the station screened a press roundup during which a participant alleged there were "Zionist attempts to transmit dangerous illnesses such as AIDS via exports to Arab countries."

The CSA said those comments "were of a nature to disturb public order and to attack the fundamental principles of audiovisual law which prohibit any incitation to hatred or violence."

Al-Manar was granted its licence on November 19 despite appeals by Jewish groups claiming it put out anti-Semitic content.

The CSA had stressed the station would be held to the highest standards.

The head of the station, Mohammed Haidar, said last week that the aim of Al-Manar was to support the Palestinian cause, and it had always distinguished between Israel's policies as a state and the Jewish religion.

"We are ready to respect French law and will submit to it," he told the newspaper Le Figaro, adding that previous programming perpetuating false accounts about Jewish history were a "mistake".

Haidar denied that Al-Manar was owned by Hezbollah, but acknowledged that it defended Hezbollah's activities and views, notably with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In Beirut, Al-Manar issued a statement saying it was "astonished" to have learned through the media of the CSA's plans rather than be informed directly ahead of time and suggested the move was due to political pressure.

It said it "deplores the haste" with which the CSA acted and it called on the agency to respect its commitments under the accord and "not bow to political pressures brought to bear on it".

Hezbollah is considered a terrorist organisation by Israel and the United States.

In Europe, however, some governments make a distinction between its political party, which has a dozen members in the Lebanese parliament, and its military wing, responsible for deadly attacks against Israel.

Al-Manar ("The Lighthouse" in Arabic) first began broadcasting in 1991.

Four years ago it moved to satellite, with programming 24 hours a day. It now broadcasts in Arabic, French and English.

Its programming focuses on the Palestinian struggle for statehood, and the station regularly praises anti-Israeli suicide attacks carried out by the Palestinian radical groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

More recently it has begun seeking a wider audience, introducing game shows and sports coverage.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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