Al-Manar: Hezbollah Television
Posted: March 31, 2008
Hezbollah's television station, Al-Manar, broadcasts the terrorist group's messages of hate and violence, disseminates anti-Semitic and anti-American propaganda and glorifies suicide bombings to millions of viewers in the Arab world, Europe and South East Asia for 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The station, which operates out of Beirut, Lebanon, was founded in 1991 and started broadcasting via satellite in May 2000. Al-Manar, Arabic for "the Beacon," received seed money from Iran and is mostly funded by Hezbollah, which itself is dependent on Iranian financial backing. Al-Manar is also reportedly funded through donations collected from Muslim communities outside Lebanon. In 2004, it was estimated to have an annual budget of approximately $15 million and 300 employees.
Currently, the Al-Manar signal can be picked up in Europe and in the Arab world, including North Africa, by way of two Arab satellite companies: Arabsat, a Saudi-based company founded and run by the Arab League, and Nilesat, which is controlled by the Egyptian government. Indosat, an Indonesian telecommunications company, has also carried Al-Manar since April 2008.
Al-Manar's former programming director, Sheikh Nasir al-Akhdar, has said that the station's goals are to "wage psychological warfare" and "promote the Islamic resistance." He has further explained that "the 'war' with the Zionist enemy continues. This war will persist as long as the Hebrew state exists in occupied Palestine."
Al-Manar broadcasts Hezbollah's messages to an estimated daily audience of 10-15 million viewers. During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in 2003, Al-Manar aired Ash-Shatat ("the Diaspora"), a 30-part series produced in Syria and based on the anti-Semitic literature the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion."
Al-Manar also appears to be the source of the conspiracy theory that claimed that 4,000 Israelis were absent from their jobs at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, implying that Israel was responsible for the terrorist attacks of that day. In addition to broadcasting the conspiracy, Al-Manar also posted the story on its Web site, which enables viewers to watch live streaming video of the network. The September 11 conspiracy story was later picked up by extremists around the world.
Al-Manar often airs interviews and speeches, given by Hezbollah leaders, that incite violence. In several addresses aired during a Shi'i festival in February 2006, for example, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah condemned a Danish newspaper that published cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Nasrallah urged European parliaments to "draft laws that ban newspapers from insulting the Prophet" and warned, "Today we are protesting…but we are ready to shed our blood."
On March 24, 2008, Al-Manar broadcasted a speech by Nasrallah to mark the end of the 40-day mourning period for Imad Mughniyah, a Hezbollah military commander killed the previous month. In his speech, Nasrallah stated that "The Zionist entity can be wiped out of existence," warned of "Zionist-American propaganda" and spoke about the "bloody war of consciousness" in which Israel, helped by some Arabs and Europeans, has "infiltrated" the media. Nasrallah also stated that "Mughniyah will remain the pillar for the resistance in his martyrdom as he was the pillar of the resistance during his life, his jihad and his work. We…will continue to follow his path."
The U.S. State Department designated Al-Manar as a terrorist entity and added the satellite station to the Terrorism Exclusion List in December 2004. Two years later, the U.S. Treasury Department added Al-Manar, along with its parent company, the Lebanese Media Group, to its Specially Designated Global Terrorist List, which resulted in economic sanctions against the station and made it illegal for any U.S. persons to engage in financial transactions with it. In June 2009, Javed Iqbal and Saleh Elahwal were sentenced in a Manhattan federal court to nearly six years in prison and 17 months in prison, respectively, for distributing broadcasts of Al-Manar in New York and providing material support to Hezbollah.
Several European countries, including France, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as Australia, have also taken measures to block Al-Manar. In March 2005, the broadcasting regulators in the European Union agreed to ban satellite broadcasting of Al-Manar on the basis that the channel carried racist material and incitement. As a result, several satellite service providers, most of them European, dropped Al-Manar, making it unavailable in North and South America, Asia and Australia. Al-Manar, is, however, still available in Europe through Arab satellite companies and its Web site offers English, French and Spanish translations of its material.