Hamas TV protests removal from major satellite provider

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The Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV station on Tuesday protested a French decision to remove it from a major satellite provider within 48 hours because of "incitement to hatred."

The deputy head of the Gaza-based station told AFP it had been informed that the Paris-based Eutelsat would stop carrying the channel within two days, a move he said would lead to the loss of 70 percent of its viewers.

"We were told that the reason behind the decision to stop broadcasting Al-Aqsa was 'incitement to hatred,' without any explanation," Mohammed Thuraya said.

"This is the unfair result of pressure from the Zionist lobby on the American administration, which in turn pressured France and Eutelsat," he said, adding that the decision had "no legal or moral justification."

Earlier this month the French government had ordered Eutelsat, which broadcasts Al-Aqsa through an agreement with Bahrain-based Noorsat, to take the channel off the air after receiving a complaint from the European Commission that it violated rules on incitement.

French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said at the time that the station shows programmes which "incite hatred or violence for reasons of religion or nationality."

The French broadcasting authority had previously warned Eutelsat in 2008 and 2009 about breaching French laws that also prohibit incitement. The company said it had passed on the complaints to Noorsat.

Eutelsat broadcasts programming to some 190 million households in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, according to the company's website.

Thuraya said the channel's request for an extra day to consult lawyers and rights groups in order to appeal the decision was denied.

Some 70 people, including employees and Hamas and Islamic Jihad representatives, demonstrated in front of the French Cultural Centre in Gaza and delivered a letter of protest in which they linked the decision to Israel's four-year blockade of the territory.

The channel shows music videos and gaudy, three-dimensional cartoons glorifying the killing of Israeli soldiers by masked militants, as well as a children's show with a Mickey Mouse-like character that encourages martyrdom and armed struggle leading to the destruction of Israel.

Launched in 2006, the channel has offices in Gaza, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey, and employs around 400 people, Thuraya said.

Israel repeatedly targeted the channel during a devastating 22-day Gaza offensive launched in December 2008 and aimed at halting Hamas rocket attacks, which destroyed all the channel's studios but failed to take it off the air.

Hamas, which won Palestinian legislative elections in 2006 and violently seized power in Gaza the following year, is sworn to the destruction of Israel and has launched scores of deadly attacks since it was founded in 1987.

© 2010 AFP

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