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Hezbollah and the Tent - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Hezbollah issued a statement condemning the decision to suspend the broadcast of Iranian Al-Alam [news] channel on satellite operators Arabsat and Nilesat. In this statement, the [Lebanese] party said “Hezbollah declares its solidarity with the Al-Alam channel and considers this [the channel’s suspension] to be a violation of the freedom of speech and opinion, and calls for this issue to be treated immediately in order to ensure the preservation of public freedoms.”

Hezbollah talking about freedom reminded me of a funny story that I received once in an e-mail.

A philosopher and an illiterate decided to travel to the desert and spend a day there. They erected their tent, and after a long day decided to go to sleep in the tent. After they both fell asleep, the illiterate woke up, he then woke up his philosopher friend and asked him “Look up and tell me what you see.”

The philosopher looked up and said “I see stars, an innumerable number of them.”

The illiterate asked him “And what does that mean?”

The philosopher said “This is evidence of the Creator’s ability which can be seen here in the magnificence of this star-studded sky, and in fact if you like I can tell you what time it is now, and even what the weather will be like tomorrow.”

The philosopher then turned to his illiterate friend and asked “Very well, tell me what you see.”

The illiterate answered “I see that our tent has been stolen, idiot!”

This story is applicable to what Hezbollah is saying about the violation of the freedom of speech and opinion, and the necessity of preserving public freedoms. This is because Hezbollah is lecturing us about freedom that it itself is exploiting to serve the goals of establishing sectarian division and in order to threaten the preservation of Arab society. Hezbollah is arguing for freedom today, however the first thing that Hezbollah did following the 7 May Beirut coup – during which Hezbollah took control of Sunni areas in Beirut – was to use weaponry to attack the media organizations that opposed Hezbollah, not to mention intimidate Lebanese journalists.

It is strange that Hezbollah announced its support and defense of the Iranian Al-Alam [news] channel on behalf of the freedoms of speech and opinion however we did not hear one word from the group about the newspapers that are being closed down every day in Iran. This is something that has been happening for years, and more than 200 newspapers have been shut down in Iran, not to mention the persecution and imprisonment of journalists in Tehran who – reflecting the demands of half of Iranian society – called for reform. This is contrary to the demands of a small group [of Iranian society] or groups who are affiliated to foreign countries, such as Hezbollah. The Al-Alam [news] channel wants to convince us that it is concerned with the Arab world, whilst all that it is doing is supporting the separatists [in our region] and their armed movement against our security and stability.

The Iranian Al-Alam [news] channel incites sectarianism, and is not a television station which follows the principles of professional media. The same applies to the Al-Manar television channel that belongs to Hezbollah. Both of these television stations serve as examples of media organizations that mobilize sectarianism, and this is something contrary to the concept of freedom of speech and opinion. The first condition of this – freedom – is responsibility, and this principle is based on the understanding that your freedom ends when it begins to usurp the freedom of others.

Therefore Hezbollah shedding crocodile tears about the suspension of the broadcast of Al-Alam television is similar to the talk of the philosopher under the tent. Those sympathetic to Iran’s agents [in our region] are making the same mistake, and are not paying attention to the fact that the tent of stability in our region is at risk because of Iran and its agents.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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