- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 18, 2004

BEIRUT — Al-Manar, the television station of Lebanon’s Hezbollah militants that has glorified suicide bombers, lost its satellite feed to the United States yesterday after Washington put it on a list of terror organizations.

The exclusion from U.S. TV screens came less than a week after France banned its broadcasts, but Al-Manar’s problems airing its anti-Israel message abroad don’t seem to hurt its popularity in the Arab world. The station still enjoys the support of the Lebanese and Syrian governments and a broad and sympathetic Arab audience.

The station, which ranks fourth or fifth among Lebanon’s nine stations and claims to have nearly 10 million viewers around the world, has drawn protests from across the globe for airing anti-Israel programs that include videos glorifying Hezbollah and other Arab suicide bombers who target Israelis, describing the attacks as “heroic martyrdom operations.” Its presenters refer to Israel as “the enemy.”

“We are sorry to lose our audience in France and America. We will work to change that. Meanwhile, we still have our faithful viewers elsewhere,” said Hassan Fadlallah, Al-Manar’s news director.

The United States placed Al-Manar on its list of terrorist organizations Friday, dismissing freedom-of-speech objections and accusing Al-Manar of inciting violence in the Middle East.

“We don’t see why here or anywhere else a terrorist organization should be allowed to spread its hatred and incitement through the television airwaves,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

He said the practical effect of the decision would include the exclusion from the United States of anyone associated with the station.

“For example, an alien would be found ineligible for visas or subject to deportation if the alien is a member of Al-Manar, solicits funds or other things of value for Al-Manar, or if he provides material support to Al-Manar,” he said.

The television is known to air appeals for donations during commercial breaks. U.S. multinational Coca-Cola and Pepsi used to be among advertisers on the station until 2002.

Mr. Fadlallah called the U.S. action “a blatant attack on press freedoms and an exercise in intellectual terrorism against the voices that are opposed to U.S. and Israeli policies. It is part of an organized Israeli campaign against Al-Manar to keep it from transmitting the facts of the Arab-Israeli struggle.”

Lebanese authorities have threatened to reciprocate against French channels for the ban. Lebanon considers Hezbollah — a militant Shi’ite Muslim group high on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations — to be a legitimate resistance organization fighting Israeli occupation.

Al-Manar’s broadcasts to the United States, through satellite operator Intelsat, were halted yesterday, Mr. Fadlallah said.

French authorities banned satellite-television broadcasts by the station on Dec. 13, soon after a Nov. 23 show that quoted someone described as an expert on Zionist affairs warning of “Zionist attempts” to transmit diseases such as AIDS to Arab countries.

Al-Manar — the self-proclaimed “Channel of Resistance and Liberation” — airs documentaries, dramas, political talk and health shows, but even some of its entertainment shows are centered on “the struggle” against Israel, and some game shows feature questions on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

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