US ban risks making Al-Manar TV military target

12th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

BEIRUT, Jan 12 (AFP) - The head of press watchdog Reporters Without Borders(RSF) warned Wednesday that a US decision to brand Lebanese television station Al-Manar a terrorist organisation risked turning it into a military target.

BEIRUT, Jan 12 (AFP) - The head of press watchdog Reporters Without Borders(RSF) warned Wednesday that a US decision to brand Lebanese television station Al-Manar a terrorist organisation risked turning it into a military target.

"The American reference sets a dangerous precedent because it risks turning(Al-Manar) into a military target, like Serbian television (attacked by NATO during the Kosovo war in 1999) or Al-Jazeera (Qatar-based news channel) bombarded by the American army in Kabul" during the 2001 Afghan war, said Robert Menard.

The US State Department decided in December to label the channel, which is seen as a mouthpiece of the Lebanese Shiite Muslim fundamentalist group Hezbollah, a terrorist organisation.

The move followed a decision by a French court which forced Paris-based satellite carrier Eutelsat to stop running Al-Manar after ruling that the station had aired programming that contained anti-Jewish views.

"Closing down a broadcaster because it is partisan is against the freedom of expression, which is why I came to Beirut to express my solidarity with Al-Manar," Menard said following a meeting with staff at the station.

"Many Arab media are partisan. According to the current (Western) logic, you would have to ban them all," he told reporters.

Menard pointed out on Tuesday however that he was opposed to anti-Semitic broadcasts like those that prompted the French ban.

Al-Manar, which has accepted that it erred in broadcasting the programmes in question, has been backed by the Lebanese government and local media which have retaliated against French television channels by halting their broadcasts.

Hezbollah is both a political party and a militia group which was widely credited for the May 2000 Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon after two decades of occupation.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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