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Hezbollah raps EU’s Iranian TV ban
A Hezbollah flag is seen attached on the border fence with Israel in the southern village of Kfar Kila as Israeli soldiers stand guard in Metulla, Friday, May 11, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
A Hezbollah flag is seen attached on the border fence with Israel in the southern village of Kfar Kila as Israeli soldiers stand guard in Metulla, Friday, May 11, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
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BEIRUT: Hezbollah slammed European satellite provider Eutelsat Thursday over its recent decision to take a number of Iranian television and radio broadcasters off air, and mocked the EU over the affair.

“These arbitrary decisions will not hide the truth and will not prevent the targeted channels from finding avenues to remain active and voice the truth ... despite all actions taken by the West and their Arab followers,” a statement from the Lebanese group’s media office said.

Eutelsat banned Monday the broadcast of 19 Iranian television channels and radio stations as a result of sanctions by the European Union, which hopes to pressure Iran back to negotiations over its suspicious nuclear program.

Vanessa O’Connor, a spokeswoman for Eutelsat, told Agence France Presse that the channels operated by Iranian state broadcaster Irib have been blocked for viewers in Europe and elsewhere since Monday morning.

Iran’s Press TV, which is among the 19 channels, says Irib could seek legal action against Eutelsat.

In its statement Thursday, Hezbollah mocked the decision and reasons behind terminating the broadcasts.

“What is revealing is that the European firm claims that its decision came as a result of pressure from the EU, which only a few days ago received a Nobel peace prize, and here it is now working to deprive all rights to freedom of expression through legal means,” the statement said.

“The decision to take off air [the channels] ... is an assault on freedoms, which the West so often praises, and is a violation to all laws regulating this international media sector. The decision lacks any logic that can be accepted or justified,” the group said.

Hezbollah’s media office voiced total solidarity with the targeted channels and urged Eutelsat to rescind its “arbitrary” decision.

Meanwhile, the BBC said Thursday that broadcasts had been disrupted in the Middle East and Europe, just weeks after its satellite transmission provider accused Iran of trying to jam U.S. and European programs.

Britain’s public broadcaster did not say who was interfering with the signal, but Eutelsat, which transmits some of its programs, said on Oct. 4 that Iran had been deliberately jamming satellite signals.

“The BBC, together with a number of other broadcasters, is experiencing deliberate, intermittent interference to its transmissions to audiences in Europe and the Middle East,” the BBC said in a statement.

“Deliberate interference such as the jamming of transmissions is a blatant violation of international regulations concerning the use of satellites and we strongly condemn any practice designed to disrupt audiences’ free access to news and information,” the broadcaster said.

A spokeswoman for the BBC declined to say who could be responsible for the disruption. A spokeswoman for Eutelsat could not be reached for comment on the issue.

In February, the then head of the BBC, Mark Thompson, said Iran had repeatedly tried to jam the BBC’s Persian-language television programs and said Iranian authorities had arrested and threatened BBC Persian staff.

“For those working for the BBC Persian service, interference and harassment from the Iranian authorities has become a challenging fact of life,” Thompson said at the time.

Last September, Iran arrested several people for supplying information to the BBC, accusing them of seeking to portray a negative image of the Islamic Republic.

The BBC said that services suffering disruption included the BBC World News, BBC Arabic television channels and BBC World Service radio services in English and Arabic.

Eutelsat, which has been calling for Iran to stop jamming signals since May 2009, said programming by the BBC, Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty had been disrupted.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 19, 2012, on page 3.
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