Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Hezbollah TV

I had not known that Hezbollah had their own tv station. I had never thought about it. Then this morning, reading the paper on my way to work, I came across an article on the opinion page entitled “Mediální bomba Hizballáhu” – Hezbollah’s Media Bomb. I thought it was interesting so I have translated the article in order to share it.*

The article is by Pavel Kohout and it appeared in today’s Mladá fronta Dnes.

Hezbollah’s Media Bomb

The terrorist organisation Hezbollah was still relatively unknown in the 1980s, but now it stirs world events. Hezbollah owes its rise to power not only to the support of the Syrian and Iranian governments, but also to the power of the media. In that respect, Hezbollah also received help from western technology and western finance.

In 1991, Hezbollah took advantage of the legislative chaos in Lebanon and started pirate television broadcasts. The organisation later obtained a licence and the television station Al Manar became a legal civil communications medium. In the year 2000, Al Manar began satellite broadcasts worldwide in Arabic, English and French.

If the word “islamo-fascism” existed, propaganda station Al Manar would fit the definition perfectly. In 2001, they broke the “news” about the alleged Jewish conspiracy that had organised the attacks of September 11th. Not even Goebbels could have thought up the plot of the television serial “Zahara’s Blue Eyes” in which evil Jews kidnap Palestinian children and take their organs for transplant; the protagonist Zahara in this way loses her eyes. Another serial “Al Shahat” – The Diaspora – was based on that anti-Semitic classic The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Al Manar’s broadcasts were always full of advertisements for the armed elements of Hezbollah. Animated souls of suicide bombers came to rest amongst rose-coloured clouds in blue heavens. Al Manar also broadcasted interviews with the mothers of real suicide bombers. A woman in a black chador would talk about the heroism of her son who had blown himself up on an Israeli bus. “In comparison with others, I have sacrificed nothing. Yes, I have sacrificed a son, but other mothers have sacrificed two or three. I hope that more of my sons will become martyrs,” she declares to the camera. She is so overcome with happiness that her eyes are flowing with tears.

A western viewer might doubt that the tears are really tears of joy, but the moderator does not allow anyone to doubt. At another time, Al Manar broadcasted film of the suicide bomber Salah Ghandour in action and the subsequent interview with his widow, the mother of three small children. What joy, what happiness! And of course many new recruits for “martyr operations”.

This terrorist propaganda was until not long ago disseminated, entirely legally, through western media outlets. For example, the television company Globecast (a subsidiary of France Telecom) broadcasted Al Manar programmes to North America through transmitters belonging to the Bermudan company Intelsat. (Intelsat’s management is in Washington.) European company Eutelsat, with its headquarters in Paris, broadcasted to Europe and North Africa. The company New Skies Satellites, registered in the US but operating from The Hague in the Netherlands, also broadcasted Al Manar signals. The firm Asiasat, registered in Bermuda and owned by the Luxembourg company SES, broadcasted Al Manar’s programmes to Asia. Hispasat broadcasted to South America, its main shareholder is Eutelsat.

In short, capital and technology from Europe and the USA helped propagate terrorism without limitation for several years. Not until the new year of 2004-2005 were the broadcasts of Al Manar prohibited in the USA, Canadia, Australia and all of the EU countries. There is a question as to whether the prohibition is enforceable by law. Protests have been called by left-orientated human rights groups. It is simply not acceptable to restrict the freedom of expression. It is simply not acceptable to impose censorship on private media companies. But the human rights of the victims of terrorism did not interest those who were fighting for freedom of expression.

Nevertheless, in the end, the Al Manar broadcasts were markedly restricted. Western media’s main reason for breaking with Al Manar was probably not the official prohibition, but rather privatisation. The shareholders of Intelsat and Eutelsat did not want terrorism on their airwaves. Not all capitalists are willing to sell ropes that in the end may hang them.

* Disclaimer – I have warned you before that I am not a talented translator. Read at your own peril.

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