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Hezbollah disavows Al-Manar ‘apology’
File - Employees of Lebanon's Hizbollah al-Manar television network work in a television station in Beirut in this December 3, 2004.  (REUTERS/Jamal Saidi)
File - Employees of Lebanon's Hizbollah al-Manar television network work in a television station in Beirut in this December 3, 2004. (REUTERS/Jamal Saidi)
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BEIRUT: Hezbollah will decide the fate of an Al-Manar delegation, which recently issued a public apology to Bahrain without consulting its parent organization, when the group returns from Tunisia, a Hezbollah spokesperson said Monday.

At a meeting in Tunis of the Arab States Broadcasting Union, Hezbollah’s media arm, Al-Manar, publicly apologized for its coverage of the Bahraini anti-government protests. Hezbollah responded Sunday night by saying it was not responsible for the apology and reaffirmed its support for the people of Bahrain.

The Hezbollah spokesperson told The Daily Star that no further decision would be taken until the Al-Manar delegation returned to Lebanon. A representative from the TV station said he could neither confirm nor deny that more information would be released concerning the apology.

“The stance that was taken by the delegation representing the Lebanese Communication Group was its own and the Hezbollah leadership was not consulted over the issue,” Hezbollah said in a statement. The Lebanese Communication Group is the parent company of Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Manar television and Al-Nour radio stations.

“Our support of the oppressed people of Bahrain did not change at all, and we consider that the oppression practiced by the Bahraini authorities against its people is great, and it still persists in depriving the Bahraini people of their right in participating in political life,” Hezbollah said Sunday.

The Bahrain News Agency published what it said was the original copy of the apology. In it, the Lebanese Communication Group said it would re-evaluate its editorial policies to ensure compliance with international agreements and vowed to work on maintaining good relations with Arab countries, particularly Bahrain.

The statement was read by union Director Salaheddine Maaoui during its 90th General Assembly meeting that took place Saturday in the Tunisian capital.

Maaoui tasked the ASBU’s general manager to follow up on the implementation of the Lebanese group’s decision, and take any necessary measures if the group reneged on its commitment.

Contradicting the apology issued by its media arm, Hezbollah said in a statement that the apology should have been addressed to the Bahraini people, “who have shown rare patience for over two and a half years as they suffer repression and all patterns of abuse by the ruling authorities.”

Hezbollah also accused the Bahrain authorities of intimidating anyone who supports the Bahraini people.

“The threat, intimidation and unjust accusation practiced by the authorities in Bahrain against anyone on the side of the Bahraini people, and their just cause is further evidence of the incapacity of the ruling authorities and their inability to engage in dialogue with the people,” the statement said.

Bahrain had requested the union cancel the Lebanese Communication Group’s membership over its coverage of the Shiite-led demonstrations seeking wider representation in the Sunni-majority government.

Some of the demonstrations, which began in mid-2011, have turned violent as a result of clashes between protesters and the police force.

Hezbollah has been an outspoken critic of Bahrain’s policy in crushing the demonstrations while powers in Manama have long accused the party of interfering in its internal affairs.

Earlier this year, Bahrain sought to halt the broadcast of Al-Manar and Al-Nour from the Arabsat and Nilesat satellite networks, but the Lebanese government successfully managed to block the action.

Media analyst Sarah el-Richani told The Daily Star Monday that the incident itself was probably leaked by the Bahrain News Agency to cause embarrassment to Hezbollah.

“It’s just a matter of the settlement being leaked to the media by the Bahrain News Agency to embarrass Hezbollah,” Richani said.

“What was published may not have been the exact wording, although Hezbollah didn’t deny that Al-Manar officials apologized.”

Hezbollah has since clarified its position regarding Bahrain, she said.

“The apology is an embarrassment as they had claimed to support the protests and defiantly covered the seldom-reported [demonstrations] and the ensuing clampdown. Hezbollah has since clarified its position in unequivocal terms, and apologized to the people of Bahrain,” Richani said.

Al-Manar has in the past pledged to the Conseil superieur de l’audiovisuel in France not to broadcast content that incites hatred and violence, removed programming that has irked Lebanese Christian organizations and has probably tried to compromise here so as not to be expelled from the union and from broadcasting via satellite, she said.

She said the key was to wait and see if any internal changes took place at the station, such as a reshuffle in the upper echelons or a change of directors.

“The problem is the apology, apologizing to the state of Bahrain, which in the eyes of Hezbollah is not warranted,” Richani said.

Richani was certain there would be no break or tension between the party and its affiliate stations.

“Al-Manar and Al-Nour are part of the party. It [Al-Manar] has been referred to as ‘an important weapon’ and its secretary-general has credited it with the liberation in 2000,” she said, adding that, at most, some heads will roll to prove that the party is committed to its stance. “There will be no break in relations.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 10, 2013, on page 4.
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