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France14 December 2004

Lebanese satellite TV banned from Eutelsat

Reporters Without Borders challenged an order by France’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, to French-based Eutelsat to pull the plug on Lebanese TV channel al-Manar within 48 hours.

"Ordering the closure of a media is never a good solution," said the worldwide press freedom organisation. "Admittedly al-Manar has broadcast unacceptable anti-Semitic remarks, " it said, adding that the CSA (broadcast regulator) and the French authorities had rushed to judgement without allowing enough time for reflection.

"Perhaps it would have been better to take a less radical line against the channel? Less than a month after getting CSA approval, al-Manar finds itself banned from a satellite. This high-speed procedure is worrying," it said.

"What steps are the French authorities going to take next? ", it asked. Are they going to go for other Arab media who some people accuse of justifying bombings of civilians? Will they try to cleanse France’s broadcast landscape?"

The Council of State said in a 13 December release that it had "told Eutelsat to halt broadcasting al-Manar television on its satellite within 48 hours with a fine of 5,000 euros for every day it goes over the deadline".

The court ruled that the programmes broadcast "were in a militant context, with anti-Semitic connotations."

"It cannot be ruled out that the repetition of such broadcasts (...) could have harmful effects on public order," it added.

Al-Manar’s management said it was studying the ruling "attentively" before reacting. Eutelsat Chief Executive Officer, Giuliano Berretta, said that he would "do everything possible to put the ruling into effect as quickly as possible".

Reporters Without Borders added that, "in any event the cut and dried reactions of several French officials have given al-Manar free publicity that its programmes certainly do not deserve".

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