IFJ Condemns French Ban on Arab Television Channel: “Censorship Just Adds to Intolerance”

The International Federation of Journalists today criticised a French court decision to ban a controversial Arab broadcaster from using a satellite service saying the decision was “disproportionate and inappropriate.”

The IFJ says that a court order from the French Council of State instructing the Eutelsat service to remove Lebanese TV channel Al-Manar after complaints of anti-Semitic content was a rash decision with serious implications for free expression.

“Censorship just adds to intolerance and breeds further resentment and incomprehension,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “If a broadcaster was turned off every time someone made offensive and unacceptable remarks, there would be precious little television in the world.”

The French authorities acted after complaints that Al-Manar had broadcast unacceptable anti-Semitic remarks. The IFJ recognised that media have a duty to maintain quality and to avoid potentially dangerous content that could incite community hatred “but the authorities should not rush to judge without looking for professional solutions to problems of content.”

“In this case the administrative court action raises serious concerns about where it may go next to try to bring broadcasters into line,” said White. “This action is disproportionate and inappropriate and will do nothing to bridge the gulf in understanding that at present exists between much of the Western world and some Arab media.”

The Council of State, which says the Al-Manar programmes broadcast "were in a militant context, with anti-Semitic connotations," warned that if Eutelsat fails to stop broadcasting Al-Manar television on its satellite within 48 hours there will be a fine of 5,000 euros a day it goes over the deadline.

“These issues need to be dealt with through professional channels that focus on the ethical responsibilities rather than by simple censorship,” said White. “This will only make matters worse.”

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries