Lebanon threatens TV ban reprisals

Lebanon says it is considering reprisals against French and US media after Washington cracked down on the Hizb Allah television station Al-Manar.

    After France, Al-Manar has now been taken off US airwaves too

    The US Department of State announced it had added Al-Manar to its list of suspected terrorist organisations that face sanctions, and the channel's

    broadcasts were halted on two satellites.

    Lebanese Information Minister Elie Ferzli said: "At the recommendation of parliamentary foreign affairs committee, we are studying the possibility of taking retaliatory measures against the US and French media."

    He added: "This is an attempt to shut all voices that oppose Israel and describe it as a terrorist state."

    Decision slammed

    Ferzli's comments were echoed by Lebanon's ambassador to the United States, Farid Abbud, who charged that Washington was "seeking to liquidate a media by accusing it of being the voice of Satan".

    "It is unacceptable to censor a media just because it defends positions in which it believes by taking a stand in the Arab-Israeli conflict," Abbud told the Lebanese media.

    On Friday French-owned satellite carrier GlobeCast removed Al-Manar from US airwaves after Washington announced the terrorist listing of the broadcaster.

    "This is an attempt to shut all voices that oppose Israel and describe it as a
    terrorist state"

    Elie Ferzli,
    Lebanese Information Minister

    "The channel is no longer present on the satellite," GlobeCast's New York spokesman, Robert Marking said, declining to say why.

    "The fact is that Hizb Allah is an active terrorist organisation," state department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

    "Their television arm, as anybody who watches it can tell you, as they have told me, serves to incite that kind of terrorist violence."

    Dropped from France

    Al-Manar, already dropped from French-based Eutelsat's broadcasts on Tuesday after a Paris court found it guilty of anti-Semitism, is now no longer available in North America and can only be seen in Europe on the Nilesat satellite, Lebanese broadcast sources said.

    The television's management accused Washington of "intellectual terrorism"  and of "reducing to silence, in the name of the fight against terrorism, any voice or media that dares to criticise Israel and defend the Palestinian cause."

    Lebanese students criticised the
    French decision to ban Al-Manar

    The station noted that it had legal authorisation from the Lebanese government for its broadcasts and operated under Arab League rules.

    "We are neither a party nor a political organisation," a statement insisted.

    The state department said the US decision would have consequences for any person having links to Al-Manar. Such persons could be denied visas to the United States or, if already on US territory, could be expelled.

    Boucher denied that the US decision was made under Israeli pressure. Rather, the US decision followed the French action against Al-Manar, he said.



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