Beirut- Bill McCarthy, an official for the U.S Coalition Against Terrorist Media, recently celebrated the success of the campaign against Lebanon’s al Manar television station and indicated the French- owned Eutelsat, which broadcasts al Manar in parts of Europe ceased carrying the station.
In an interview with Asharq Al Awsat, Ibrahim Farhat, spokesperson for the station, which is owned by the Lebanese Hizballah group, said, “Our channel follows a clear policy that is based on presenting true and objective news reports of events worldwide. We shall continue to follow these guidelines and work to upgrade our methods of operation despite the current ban on transmission which has no reached Asia after Europe and North America.”
The French Higher Audio Visual Council (CSA) had ordered a ban on al Manar in countries of the Europe Union to accompany pervious bans in the U.S and Australia. Hassan Fadlallah, then Director of news at the channel at the time and presently member of the Lebanese parliament, described the bias against the station as emanating from pressures from Israel and Jewish institutions.
Nowadays, according to Farhat, Al Manar is available on the Arab Arabsat and Nilesat and is actively looking for other satellites to transmit on. He added, “The global campaign to take our channel off air continues apace with many Jewish organizations directly supporting it. They are putting pressure on foreign governments and satellite companies that transmit al Manar.”
Asked how the channel planned on dealing with the campaign, Farhat said, “We will continue to make al Manar available to viewers via any satellite and in any way we can.” He also indicated, “The channel intends to continue creating a culture of dialogue amongst different religions and opinions. We will also to continue on the Palestinian conflict which is at the heart of events in the region and highlight the daily suffering of the Palestinians due to the aggressive policies of the Israeli occupation.”
The escalation in the campaign has meant al Manar is now only available to viewers in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Commenting on the shrinking availability of the channel, Farhat said, “As we’ve repeatedly said before, the campaign against us was started by members Representative Council of French Jews (CRIF) with the assistance of the Israeli Foreign ministry and its embassies in Europe. It seeks to silence any voices that expose the savage practices of the occupying Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians in occupied Palestine.” He revealed that discussion had taken place between the Lebanese television station and the French CSA and an agreement reached on 19th November 2004 regulating al Manar’s transmission on Eutelsat. The CSA unilaterally reneged the agreement on 7th January 2005 after it was targeted by Jewish lobbyists and organizations directly supported by the Israeli government.”
Meanwhile, Farhat said, discussions with France were still ongoing. “Last month, we appealed against the decision to halt the transmission of al Manar and we are awaiting the judge’s verdict.” The campaign, he warned, was ongoing, as “Jewish organizations continue to send messages to the companies that carry our channel.” He called on European governments to “take a clear stand on issues pertaining to the freedom of the media and the freedom to operate within the law. They must not abandon the principles their countries were founded on, namely the freedom of expression and opinion.”
It is worth mentioning that U.S writer Avi Jorisch published a book earlier last year entitled “Beacon of Hatred”, after monitoring the channel for two years, and included a CDROM with extracts from al Manar news bulletins that allegedly encourage violence, hatred, and terrorism.