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United States20 December 2004

Dangerous precedent seen in decision to put Al-Manar on list of terror organisations

Commenting on a US decision to put Al-Manar, the TV station of the Lebanese Shiite organisation Hezbollah, on the list of terrorist organisations, Reporters Without Borders today urged the US authorities to "take care not to lump the fight against anti-Semitism with the fight against terrorism."

"Some of the anti-Semitic statements broadcast on Al-Manar are inexcusable but putting this TV station in the same category as terrorist groups worries us and does not strike us as the best solution," the press freedom organisation said.

Noting that anyone working directly or indirectly with the station will be banned from visiting the United States and those residing in the United States are now threatened with expulsion, Reporters Without Borders asked if the Al-Manar bureau in Washington would be closed and its staff forced to leave the country.

Reporters Without Borders pointed out that the decision also meant that, in the event of war, Al-Manar’s journalists were in danger of being considered belligerents and their bureaux viewed as military targets.

"We fear that this measure could be just the first of many others, and that all news media that have been accused of helping terrorist organisations in their coverage could end up on this list, in which case there will definitely be abuses," Reporters Without Borders added.

The decision to put Al-Manar on the list of terrorist organisations (Terrorist Exclusion List) was announced by the US Department of State on 17 December. Spokesman Richard Boucher said the decision was taken because of "its incitement of terrorist activity."

The US authorities said anyone with links with Al-Manar would be refused a visa to enter the United States or would subjected to expulsion procedures if they were already on US territory. Al-Manar was removed from the satellite which beamed it into the United States on Friday, the satellite’s owner Intelsat told Reuters agency.

On 13 December, the French authorities ordered the satellite operator Eutelsat to stop relaying Al-Manar within 48 hours, saying its programming had "a militant perspective with anti-Semitic connotations." They also cited the need to preserve public order as a reason for the decision.



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