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Last Updated: Friday, 3 December, 2004, 01:05 GMT
French seek 'anti-Semitic' TV ban
By Sebastian Usher
BBC world media correspondent,

Al-Manar TV newsreader
Raffarin: Al-Manar's broadcasts "incompatible with our values"
French PM Jean-Pierre Raffarin has called for a Lebanon-based satellite TV channel backed by Hezbollah to be taken off air for its "anti-Semitic" content.

His intervention comes two weeks after al-Manar was authorised to continue broadcasting in Europe by France's media watchdog.

The channel signed an undertaking not to incite hatred or violence.

Anti-Semitism has recently become a sensitive issue in France after a big rise in attacks on Jewish targets.

The furore caused by al-Manar in France was demonstrated by the fact that the prime minister felt it necessary to address the issue in the Senate.

Mr Raffarin said he believed the country's media watchdog, the CSA, would have no choice but to stop al-Manar broadcasting to France.

"Al-Manar's programmes are incompatible with our values. It is clear that these programmes will lead to the rescinding of the agreement signed between the CSA and al-Manar," Mr Raffarin said.

Jewish groups in France have protested in particular about a series on al-Manar portraying Zionism as a criminal conspiracy.

Al-Manar argues that it is not anti-Semitic, but anti-Israeli.

It says moves to ban it have been orchestrated by Israel for political reasons.

Desecrated Jewish graves in Brumath Cemetery, near Strasbourg
There has been a resurgence of anti-Semitic attacks in France
Strict ban

In order to be allowed to continue broadcasting to France, it recently signed an agreement with the French broadcasting authorities not to show programmes that might incite violence or hatred on religious or national grounds.

The head of the CSA described it as the most rigorous ever imposed on a TV network.

But pressure to ban al-Manar has not let up - its output has been closely watched for signs of anti-Semitism.

Last week, monitors recorded a commentator on the channel speaking of what he called "Zionist attempts to transmit Aids to Arab countries".

On Wednesday, the CSA asked the highest administrative court in France to suspend the channel.

In his comments to the Senate, Mr Raffarin said he regretted there was currently no law to allow the government to ban the station immediately, but pledged to work towards introducing one.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom has congratulated France for moving against al-Manar.

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