Must See Hezbollah TV
The New York Sun - 9 February 2006
By Steve Stalinsky
Since Hezbollah's TV channel Al-Manar began broadcasting via satellite in 2000, it has been at the center of controversy throughout the West. In America, Canada, France, Australia, Spain, the Netherlands, and elsewhere, the channel has been banned.
In 2003, Australia was first to censure Al-Manar.The Australian daily newspaper said by way of explanation, "the channel incites to terrorism." During a Swedish parliament session on March 18,2004, Mikael Oscarsson of the Christian Democratic Party asked Prime Minister Goran Persson to put an end to Al-Manar broadcasts in his country, describing them as "appalling propaganda of incitement" that "can only be compared with that of the Nazis."
The French government banned Al-Manar in December 2004 for violating repeatedly the country's anti-hate laws. America and Canada followed just days afterward. A State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher, said, "We don't see why ... a terrorist organization should be allowed to spread its hatred and incitement through the television airwaves."
The Spanish government blocked transmission of Al-Manar on July 14, 2005. A conservative foreign affairs spokesman at the European Union, Charles Tannock, responded as follows: "Hezbollah uses Al-Manar to spread hatred and incite people to commit terrorist acts against innocent civilians ... every effort must be now made by the E.U. to prevent further brainwashing of vulnerable young people by fundamentalist religious extremists". He said Hezbollah ought "not be allowed to spread hate-filled propaganda on our continent."
Most recently on January 26, Dutch authorities blocked the transmission of Al-Manar for spreading hate, saying the channel encourages the radicalization of Muslims and glorifies terrorist attacks. Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner was quoted by the AFP as calling "for a European Union-wide solution to the problem of such television channels."
Some Arabs have also been critical of Al-Manar. In an interview with Al-Jazeera on July 26, 2004, a former Iraqi government minister, Hoshyan Zebari, accused Arab satellite channels of inciting violence - singling out Al-Manar. In November, the editor of the London Arabic daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Tariq Al-Homayed, criticized "ideology-laden satellite channels "for causing damage to the Arab world", mentioning "Hezbollah's channel Al-Manar."
The channel does receive tremendous support from the Arab world and in particular the Lebanese government. After the American ban, a former Lebanese premier, Salim Hoss, said, "the U.S.move was akin to granting Al-Manar a medal of honor.It is an official recognition of its genuine effectiveness."
Lebanese government officials have explicitly stated Al-Manar is formally under its control. President Lahoud said on July 1, "Al-Manar is a national Lebanese consensus issue, and it is protected by Lebanese laws. "The director general of the Information Ministry, Hassan Falha, in August 2004 said, "Al-Manar is a Lebanese media institution working in abidance with the Lebanese laws and laws regulating media in Lebanon. The Lebanese government is concerned about the Al-Manar issues at all press, legal, diplomatic, and political levels."
Following Al-Manar's ban in the West, the editor-in-chief of the channel's news division,Abdullah Shamseddine, told the Daily Star on December 20, 2004, "The damage is merely political ...Viewers can still watch via NileSat and by adjusting their dishes to receive our signal. The same applies to South American countries."
This strategy has not gone unnoticed by Western governments. As an E.U. spokesman, Charles Tannock, said on July 14, 2005,"I have asked the British Presidency of the E.U. to raise the matter with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, both of whom continue to operate satellites which broadcast Al-Manar across Europe."
Over the past six weeks, this column has detailed Al-Manar's history; its anti-American stance; its connection to Hezbollah, and its use by Hezbollah to incite Muslims throughout the world. Just days ago, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Nasrallah made a statement covered by Al-Manar about the Muhammad caricature controversy, which could be interpreted as being directed toward Muslims in the West.
"If there had been a Muslim to carry out Imam Khomeini's fatwa against the renegade Salman Rushdie, this rabble who insult our Prophet Muhammad in Denmark, Norway, and France would not have dared to do so ... I am sure there are millions of Muslims who are ready to give their lives to defend our prophet's honor and we have to be ready to do anything for that," he said.
This quote represents the danger posed by Hezbollah and its TV channel. One solution is for the Lebanese government to pull the plug on Al-Manar.
Mr. Stalinsky is executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute.