France's highest judicial authority has banned the broadcast of a Lebanese satellite channel because of what it calls its militant and anti-Semitic statements. It is unclear how effectively the ban can be enforced.
Only a month after Al-Manar was allowed to air in France, the French Council of State ruled late Monday to ban the Lebanese-based satellite channel. It gave Al-Manar's Paris-based distributor, Eutelsat, 48 hours to comply, or face a $6600 daily fine until it did.
Eutelsat broadcasts Al-Manar across Europe, as part of a package of TV channels offered by the Saudi-based Arabsat. A Eutelsat spokeswoman reached by VOA Monday night said the company would comply with the state council's decision.
Al-Manar is linked to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, and its programs include videos glorifying suicide bombers, and anti-Semitic commentaries.
Last month, the French broadcast regulator, CSA, granted Al-Manar a license on the condition that it respect French laws against inciting racial or religious violence. Then Al-Manar broadcast a commentary blaming Jews for spreading HIV/AIDS. So last Tuesday, the CSA recommended to the French state council that it ban Eutelsat from distributing Al-Manar.
Al-Manar's broadcasts have also sparked outrage on the part of anti-discrimination activists and members of France's Jewish community.
Emmanuel Weintraub, a senior member of France's Representative Jewish Council, said the French council's decision Monday was a step forward.
"If what the Conseil d'Etat is going to be applied, and it has to be applied by Eutelsat, Eutelsat being the main operator in France, this will be a solution of 90 percent of the problem," he said.
But Mr. Weintraub and others have doubts about how effective the French ban will be. Al-Manar officials claim viewers can still access the channel through alternative satellites. France's state council also says it might reconsider the ban if Al-Manar eventually complies with French anti-hate laws.