Hezbollah network Al-Manar available to wider international audience

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Friday, January 11, 2008

The flag of Hezbollah which runs Al-Manar.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Thaicom, a Thai satellite company has begun airing Hezbollah network Al-Manar, much to Israel's discontent. Al-Manar now can be viewed in Asia, Australia, Africa, the Middle East, and most of Europe, a blow to Israel who is trying to fight Hezbollah. Many fear this will increase support and recruiting for Hezbollah, which the United States, Israel and some other countries consider a terrorist organization. Thaicom considers Al-Manar programming as "news and entertainment."

Al-Manar was designated a 'terrorist entity', and banned by the United States in December 2004. It has also been banned by France and Spain, and has run into some service and license problems abroad, making it unavailable in the Netherlands, South America and Canada while it has not officially been banned in any of these regions.

The station was launched by Hezbollah in 1991 with the help of Iranian funds. By 2004, Al Manar was estimated to hold 10-15 million viewers daily worldwide. Critics claim al-Manar's agenda is influenced by Iran by virtue of the "significant portion" of Hezbollah's budget shortfall that is covered by Iran, via some of the "US$100 and $200 million a year" Iran provides to Hezbollah itself. Al-Manar officials strongly deny this, saying they are subsidized by the Hezbollah party and donations from other Muslims, not by Iran. Al-Manar calls itself the "Station of the Resistance" (qanat al-muqawama) and is a key player in what Hezbollah calls its "psychological warfare against the Zionist enemy"

"It's a war. Al-Manar is Hezbollah's main communication tool, through which it spreads anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, and anti-American incitement. It spreads Hezbollah and Iranian values of radical Islam," Dr. Reuven Erlich said. Erlich is the head of the Terrorism Information Center in Herzliya, Israel. He added that the fact that Al-Manar can now be seen in south-east Asia, means that Indonesia and Malaysia, two countries with a large Muslim population, are open to its messages of hatred.

Thaicom said it is considering its response and will only offer a formal reaction over the weekend adding the decision to transmit Al-Manar broadcasts was a "purely business decision, which had nothing to do with politics."


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