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Last Updated: Friday, 20 August, 2004, 22:48 GMT 23:48 UK
France offers 'hate TV' reprieve
Satellite dish (generic)
Al-Manar is available through satellite in France - for now
France's top administrative court has given a Lebanese TV channel until 1 October to put behind it charges of anti-Semitism or face a broadcast ban.

Al-Manar TV stands to lose its right to beam programmes into France if it does not sign up to France's code of conduct for media by that date.

It caused a storm last October by showing a drama which depicted a Zionist plot to take over the world.

A lawyer for the channel said it agreed the drama had been "inadmissible".

France has seen a rise in anti-Semitic attacks in recent years, linked by many commentators to unrest in the Middle East.

Arabic satellite TV is widely watched in urban areas where most of the country's five-million-strong Muslim community are concentrated.


The French broadcasting authority (CSA) took al-Manar to court over the drama,The Diaspora, which it described as "intolerable".

"There will have to be a strong commitment that there will not be any anti-Semitic programming," said Sylvie Clement-Cuzin, the CSA's legal director, after Friday's ruling by the State Council.

The State Council ruled that if al-Manar failed to satisfy the CSA's demands, its broadcaster, Eutelsat, would have to stop airing the channel via its satellites within a period of two months.

Denis Garreau, lawyer for al-Manar, told the State Council's hearing that the broadcast of the dram had been "unfortunate" and asked for a chance to demonstrate that such airings would not be repeated.

"The entire management was agreed in acknowledging that it was inadmissible," the channel's defence said in a statement.

'Political pressure'

Al-Manar Foreign Editor Ibrahim Mousawi told BBC News Online that the proposed ban resulted from "political pressure by the Jewish lobby".

"We are not anti-Semites and did not incite hatred," he said.

The Lebanese authorities have criticised action against al-Manar.

A letter from the Lebanese foreign ministry to the French government argued that the broadcast was a criticism of "Zionist ideology and practices at the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict", not an attack on Jews.

Correspondents who have viewed The Diaspora note that it quotes extensively from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious 19th Century publication used by the Nazis among others to fuel race hatred.

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