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Al-Manar head quits after Bahrain apology
File - Al-Manar's Managing Director Abdallah Qassir, right, Head of Hezbollah's executive council Sayyed Hashem Safieddine attend a ceremony in Beirut, Thursday, May 9, 2013. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)
File - Al-Manar's Managing Director Abdallah Qassir, right, Head of Hezbollah's executive council Sayyed Hashem Safieddine attend a ceremony in Beirut, Thursday, May 9, 2013. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)
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BEIRUT: Al-Manar accepted Director-General Abdullah Qasir’s resignation from his post as head of the Hezbollah-affiliated TV station a week after he submitted it, a Hezbollah spokesperson told The Daily Star Thursday, following media reports of his departure.

“Al-Manar and the Hezbollah leadership have accepted Qasir’s resignation,” Ibrahim Moussawi confirmed to The Daily Star, a week after the former Tyre MP of Hezbollah’s Loyalty to the Resistance bloc submitted it.

The resignation comes in the wake of a recent controversy over a public apology by the Lebanese Communication Group, the parent company of Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Manar television channel and Al-Nour radio station for their coverage of the Bahraini anti-government protests, an apology that was disavowed by Hezbollah.

Local newspaper As-Safir said Qasir left for Iran after the resignation was approved.

When contacted by The Daily Star, Al-Manar television declined to comment on the resignation.

The Bahraini daily Al-Wasat said in a report published Thursday that the resignation was linked to the apology and the controversy surrounding it.

During a meeting of the Arab States Broadcasting Union in Tunis earlier this month, Hezbollah’s media arm, Al-Manar, publicly apologized for its coverage of the anti-government protests in Bahrain.

Hezbollah responded by saying it was not responsible for the apology and reaffirmed its “support for the oppressed people of Bahrain,” noting it would later decide the fate of the Al-Manar delegation which issued the apology to the small Gulf country.

“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,” the party said in a statement at the time.

Hezbollah has been an outspoken critic of Bahrain’s policy in crushing the protests that began in mid-2011 against the Sunni-ruled oligarchy, some of which have turned violent as a result of clashes between protesters and the police.

“Our support for 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,” Hezbollah went on to say.

Earlier this year, Bahrain had 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.

Powers in the Gulf state have long accused Hezbollah of interfering in its internal affairs.

Media analyst Sarah el-Richani told The Daily Star in an email Thursday that Qasir’s departure was “somehow expected after the Bahrain apology, which embarrassed Hezbollah.”

Richani said Hezbollah was quick to distance itself from Al-Manar’s apology, and that Qasir’s departure “further confirms their [the party’s] promulgated stance vis-a-vis the Bahraini protesters.”

While the issue of whether Qasir did indeed resign or was “pushed out” remains unclear, Richani said this “saga” has now reached its end with Qasir’s departure.

“Compromises and realpolitik are part of the political game and Hezbollah is of course no stranger to this, but as soon as this apology was made public, they took measures [their statement and now the resignation] to prove that they remain true to their word,” Richani added.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 27, 2013, on page 4.
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