Hezbollah TV station may be banned

The United States administration has stepped up pressure to ban Hezbollah TV station Al-Manar (The Beacon) in Australia and Indonesia.

The armed wing of Hezbollah is listed in Australia as a "terrorist" organisation. Hezbollah is, however, a legitimate party that holds 11 of the 30 seats in Lebanon's parliament. It is an Islamic party, but includes Christian and secular members, and runs many community and welfare projects. Hezbollah played a crucial role in defending Lebanon from invasion by Israel in 2006.

In 2004, Al-Manar was banned in the US, France and Spain, and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (AMCA) stopped the station from broadcasting in Australia. Last April, however, Al-Manar signed a three-year contract with an Indonesian company to use a satellite that covers the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia. To date, PT Indosat Tkb, which is part-owned by the Indonesian government, has rejected pressure from the US embassy to stop the Al-Manar broadcasts.

Australia's federal communications minister, Stephen Conroy, told media on August 21 that the AMCA is "analysing current broadcasts by Al-Manar and will report to government on whether any of its broadcasts offend the Counter-Terrorism standards".

Zionist organisations such as the Australia-Israel Jewish Affairs Council have launched a media campaign to have the channel banned in Australia, on the grounds of supposed anti-Semitism. The AIJAC has targeted the Australian Arabic Council (AAC) for defending the station.

AAC chairperson Roland Jabbour was quoted in the Age newspaper on August 21 saying that the station is popular with Arabic speakers in Australia and that its banning by a government that says it believes in freedom of speech would be hypocritical.