Australia seeking to block Arabic channel as anti-Israel

Australian Arabic Council Chairman Roland Jabbour said al-Manar was popular with many Muslim viewers in Australia and any block would be an interference with free speech.

Australia seeking to block Arabic channel as anti-Israel
Australia is seeking to block a satellite TV channel linked to Hezbollah group and broadcast from neighbouring Indonesia, the government's broadcast watchdog said on Thursday.

Australia sees dangerous Al-Manar channel because of it does not beware of showing programs against Israeli enforcement over Palestinians.

The al-Manar channel, owned by the Lebanon-based Hezbollah, is popular with Arabic speakers in Australia, broadcasting programmes including "The Spider's House", a talk show targeted at uncovering weaknesses in "The Zionist Entity", or Israel.

Information and Communications Minister Mohammad Nuh responsed to US diplomats complains that the government had no right to label a television station as a different policy network or shut it down.

"Al-Manar is similar to Al Jazeera, BBC and CNN, they are television broadcasters," the state Antara news agency quoted Nuh as saying.

Al-Manar, or "The Beacon", was banned in the United States in 2004. It describes itself as the "Station of the Resistance" against Israel and its ally U.S. foreign policy, with around 15 million viewers around the world.

Australian Arabic Council Chairman Roland Jabbour said al-Manar was popular with many Muslim viewers in Australia and any block would be an interference with free speech.

"The accusations that are directed at the station, that it advocates suicide bombings, I think if it does that it does it in the context of using whatever means are available in order to defend their territory," he said.

Launched in 1991 with backing from Iran, the station has just resumed broadcasting into Asia and the Pacific using the Indosat telecommunications service partly owned by the Indonesian government.

A spokeswoman for Indosat, Adita Irawati, said on Thursday: "Basically this is a purely business deal."

"We treat them like any other broadcasters who request to use Indosat's transponder. There's no special issue here. Our review shows that they (al-Manar) are meeting the criteria as our customers so it's a pure business deal."

3-year contract

She said the contract, signed in April, would last for 3 years. It did not regulate the content of the broadcasts.

Sasa Djuarsa Sendjaja, head of the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission, said the broadcasts posed no threat to the national interest or security.

"We are also monitoring its contents, and it's good to have a balance of news from America and the West," he said. Al-Manar could only be seen with a satellite dish, in other words by less than one percent of the 226 million people in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country.

In January 2008, the Australian watchdog complained to Thai-based satellite service Thaicom about al-Manar's transmission, with the service being dropped afterwards by the parent Shin Satellite Public Company Ltd.

Robertson said Al-Manar was in breach of Australian television anti-terrorism standards because it sought funding for "the activities of Hezbollah" by calling for donations and publishing their website addresses.

Robertson said the ACMA could launch legal action against Indosat, requiring it to stop broadcasting the service.

"We can issue a notice to an overseas-based service provider. We would confront that situation when we are confronted with it. I can't really discuss a hypothetical situation," Robertson said.

ACMA would have the option of referring any breaches to Australia's public prosecutor and the country's Federal Court.

Reuters
Last Mod: 21 Ağustos 2008, 12:54
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