Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat- Asharq Al-Awsat interviews Former Lebanese MP Abdullah Qasir, and director general of the Al-Manar television Channel, which is known as the mouthpiece of the Lebanese Hezbollah. In light of the recent bombings of the television station’s headquarters, the interview was conducted at an undisclosed location.
Qasir disclosed that the staff of the station was at the building when it was bombed and leveled to the ground. He greatly blamed the Lebanese information minister and the Arab and international media, which has not expressed enough solidarity with the station as required.
Qasir said, “Striking Al-Manar and the antennas of LBC and other television and radio stations is a precedent in itself in the history of press and media work. It shows the magnitude of Zionist rancor and the Israeli disregard for all legal and international rules and norms that protect the media and media establishments. The strange thing is not the strike itself because we know our enemy and its criminality. The strange thing is the position of international news media, which should condemn and denounce this action. We do not think that they have done what they should. Of course, there are positions that deserve thanks on the Lebanese level, but we did not feel that the positions on the Arab and international levels were commensurate with the gravity of the incident.”
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Do you think that this “silence” has to do with the fact that you are a television station affiliated with Hezbollah?
(Qasir) There is an allegation that we are Hezbollah’s channel. We have the honor to be the channel of the resistance, but I want to explain that Al-Manar Channel is not entirely owned by Hezbollah. It is a shareholding company, and Hezbollah holds a large number of its shares. It is an establishment that complies with professional controls, media standards, and journalistic principles. The channel was the first to issue a media honor code, which we announced shortly before the strike. We said that although we adopt the viewpoint of the resistance and defend the issues of the nation, led by the Palestinian issue, we are essentially a media organization that should be dealt with accordingly, and not based on the fact that it is owned by this party or that a certain party holds shares in it. Many media organizations in the world are partly owned by political parties. We hope that other media organizations would treat Al-Manar as an Arab media establishment and express solidarity with it on this basis. You should bear in mind that Israel has struck some media organizations, which are considered on the other side politically.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) We sense some blame in your words of all media organizations for not showing solidarity with Al-Manar.
(Qasir) Specifically, I am talking about Arab and international news organizations. I may understand the position of the Lebanese media because they are equally targeted. However, this unity should be translated into positions. Regrettably, I have not felt that there is a unified position, except for the position of the National Media Council and partly by Information Minister Ghazi al-Aridi.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) What do you mean by the word “partly”?
(Qasir) We are not in a situation that affords internal arguments. I had wished that the minister’s position were franker and clearer on the targeting of Al-Manar. We understand his position based on what he said, but I say that his position should have been stronger. When media institutions are targeted, the minister should undertake exceptional action on the international level. It is not enough for him to make a statement after the cabinet session or to answer a question by a journalist. There should be practical steps in this field and the concerned agencies and organizations on the international level should be addressed. We respect the minister and appreciate his efforts, but we need more.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) What is the organic relationship between the channel and Hezbollah?
(Qasir) There is no organizational relationship in the organic sense between Al-Manar and Hezbollah. Al-Manar is an independent media organization that has its own board of directors, media structure, and work mechanisms. Al-Manar does not receive instructions in the detailed sense or on a daily basis from Hezbollah. It is convinced of the approach or the line followed by the resistance and it identifies with this approach and defends it and communicates its view without ignoring other views. Al-Manar may be the only channel in Lebanon that presents the views of the Israelis and that quotes Israeli Television concerning the domestic discussions that take place about what is happening in Lebanon. This is something that should be deemed a plus for Al-Manar on the professional level and on the level of being a balanced channel, and not a channel that promotes the resistance and its approach and culture, although we are convinced that this approach should prevail in Arab and Islamic society, which I think feels the same. This is what we see from the tens of thousands of calls that we receive everyday from all over the world.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) What would you do if you happened to come across a piece of news, which is not in favor of the resistance? Would you broadcast it?
(Qasir) We abide by professional and press values. We say that we should reflect all the facts on the ground. What helps us in doing this is that the performance of the resistance is transparent. The resistance announces its losses and does not hide anything. Sometimes, we receive news from outside the operation room of the resistance and we deal with it as information and we verify it and broadcast it if it is correct without going back to anyone.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Did you expect such a strike?
(Qasir) From the moment we were classified by the Americans as a “terrorist” organization. Of course, this classification is unfair and is not based on legal or logical foundations. We also expected this when we felt that the Israelis have set up more than one lobby whose main task is to hound Al-Manar by filing complaints with European courts. We felt that we are targeted and that a day might come when we are targeted on the security and military levels. This is why we had precautionary measures in place if we come under a military or security strike or were disallowed to broadcast on certain satellites. The brothers at Al-Manar have exerted tremendous efforts, and they have adopted all the exceptional measures that are necessary to keep Al-Manar broadcasting despite coming under destructive bombardment more than once. Al-Manar also managed to maintain a high level of broadcasting and its quality has not diminished except by a very small degree.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Were you at the building when it was bombarded or did you evacuate it after the first strike?
(Qasir) I do not want to speak about the details of the mechanisms we followed during that stage because we are targeted and there is no interest in speaking about this. But I think that the results of these mechanisms reflect the extent of the measures and the safety we achieved for our staff. This is because Al-Manar was destroyed and yet the staff walked out of it unharmed. The brothers were still working inside the building and they managed very quickly to move to other stages and complete their work with high morale. They feel that they are a part of this battle. I was not surprised. I stress that their morale was very special in the way they completed their work. None of them stayed behind or hesitated to carry out an assignment that was given to him.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Can you continue broadcasting if the new place from which Al-Manar is broadcasting was hit?
(Qasir) We have adopted measures, which make us say that, God willing, we will not stop broadcasting, even if they bomb us again.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) How did you manage to overcome the technical and operational difficulties in transferring the whole television?
(Qasir) There are so many details and the challenges were great. Praise be to God, we managed to overcome these things, thanks to the quality of our staff and their sacrifices. Praise be to God, we have maintained our satellite transmission and a large percentage of our terrestrial transmission.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) So you have turned into a clandestine station?
(Qasir) To a large degree, yes. For the sake of the safety of the staff of the television, we do not announce where we work and where our colleagues work.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) A question which you might not answer: Where are you broadcasting from now?
(Qasir) From the heart of every honorable Arab and Muslim and every resistance person who feels that he is facing this campaign to which the nation is exposed from the gateway of Lebanon.