Sun, Nov 21, 2004 - Page 7 News List

France OKs Hezbollah radio in EU

AFP , PARIS

French public broadcasting regulator authorized Friday an Arabic-language television station close to the Lebanese Shiite Muslim Hezbollah group to transmit programs within the European Union.

The Al-Manar station, well known within the Arabic world, had committed itself in an agreement "not to incite hatred, violence or discrimination based on race, sex, religion or nationality," said the French Audiovisual Council.

Jewish groups had earlier urged French authorities not to grant a license to the channel to transmit programs in France after it had put out material criticized for perceived anti-Semitic content.

Following complaints, the audiovisual authority asked Al-Manar to submit a reasoned application to register as a broadcasting organization.

A top French court in August warned Lebanese-based Al-Manar channel it would curtail its satellite transmissions to France if it did not commit itself to a code of professional conduct.

The State Council, France's highest administrative tribunal, asked the channel to declare its commitment to a charter of journalistic ethics.

The charter is a document agreed with the Audio-Visual Higher Council (CSA), France's broadcasting watchdog, under which the TV channel would commit itself to abide by rules prescribed by the State Council on professional conduct and programme content.

The CSA applied to have Al-Manar transmissions to France suspended because it broadcast a programme a year ago which included particularly vicious anti-Semitic themes, such as the Middle Ages blood libel myth of alleged Jewish ritual killing of children.

Counsel for the television station at the August tribunal hearing admitted Al-Manar had transmitted a programme "about which the entire management was agreed in acknowledging that it was inadmissible."

The US State Department has listed Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot called this month for it to be likewise placed on the European Union's list of terrorist organizations in a bid to dry up its financing from Europe.

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