On Monday, a French court gave the France-based company Eutelsat 48 hours to end broadcasts by Al-Manar television, beamed from its satellites to Europe, saying the channel had violated a ban on hate speech.
Al-Manar said on Tuesday the decision was made under pressure from Israel and Jewish lobbies. Head of news, Hasan Fadl Allah, said it was unfair to close a channel because of one guest who, while live on air in November, said there were Zionist attempts to spread diseases including Aids to Arabs – comments that sparked the latest court action.
“This is a political decision, not a legal decision,” he said. “How is it possible in a country that proclaims freedom and says its laws and constitution uphold the right to free speech, that they shut a TV station on the basis of one person speaking on the telephone?”
Jewish groups’ pressure
The conservative government in France and Jewish groups have pressed for about a year for a ban on Al-Manar, one of several Arabic-language stations popular among France’s five million Muslims.
Al-Manar promised to pursue its
Paris has expressed concern about Islamist influence among disaffected Muslims and anti-Semitic views it says are spread by Hizb Allah, a group that fought Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon.
France has said Al-Manar could return to the airwaves if it modified its content to satisfy French law. The head of Eutelsat, Giuliano Berretta, told France’s Europe 1 radio on Tuesday that the satellite operator was only one of four currently broadcasting Al-Manar in Europe. Without the cooperation of the other companies it would be “very, very difficult” to halt Al-Manar broadcasts to Europe, he said.
Fadl Allah said Al-Manar would have meetings with France’s CSA broadcasting authority. He said an agreement that Al-Manar would not incite hatred, drawn up between the channel and the CSA after a previous court case in November, was still valid.
Al-Manar says it has not breached that agreement, apart from the one November incident three days after it was signed.
“Without a doubt there will be more legal proceedings,” Fadl Allah said. “This matter has not been concluded. We have various meetings on Friday, we will discuss the issue and we will press the CSA to stick to their agreement.”