US may label satellite providers terrorists

Bill prompted by incitement to kill Americans on terror-affiliated TV stations. [The Media Line]

nasrallah al-manar 248 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
nasrallah al-manar 248 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Members of the United States Congress are submitting a bill that will label carriers of incitive satellite stations as terrorist organizations. The proposed bill, part of US efforts to stem the demonization of Americans in the Arab media, was prompted by what its authors say is incitement to kill Americans on satellite stations. Channels such as Al-Manar, the mouthpiece of the Lebanon-based Hizbullah, Hamas's Al-Aqsa and A-Rafidein, an Iraqi anti-government channel, are broadcast throughout the Middle East and beyond via satellite carriers ArabSat and NileSat. Channels such as the Iraqi A-Zawra, which shows graphic footage of attacks against American and Iraqi soldiers in Iraq, have faced penalties for their material in the past. In 2007, The Media Line reported that A-Zawra had been taken off the air by both NileSat and ArabSat. NileSat officials explained the move was necessary because of technical problems, but A-Zawra insisted this was a political decision, which was a result of American pressure on the Egyptian government. Now, US officials are taking the matter a step further and targeting the carriers rather than the stations themselves. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fl) and Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) authored the bill, explaining that these television stations were helping foreign terrorist organizations in their objectives, including recruiting fighters, collecting funds and disseminating propaganda. They are demanding punitive measures be taken against the satellite carriers. After proposing House Resolution 1308 last year, a resolution that condemns the broadcasting of incitement to violence against Americans and the US in media based in the Middle East, Bilirakis said anti-American incitement of violence was escalating in quality and quantity, fueled by the rapid growth of satellite television throughout the Arab world. "Instead of denouncing and addressing such incitement, many countries in the region effectively provide financial, material or technological support to purveyors of incitement," Bilirakis said. "Al-Manar and Al-Aqsa, among others, are transmitting on the satellite providers Nile-Sat, controlled by the Egyptian government, and ArabSat, controlled by the Arab League. Given the dangers such incitement pose to American service and civilian personnel in the region, it is long past time for the US and other responsible nations to stop this growing threat," he said. Crowley also submitted a separate bill in 2008 - House Resolution 1069 - condemning "the use of television programming by Hamas to indoctrinate hatred, violence, and anti-Semitism toward Israel in young Palestinian children." On May 6, 2009, both reps submitted House Resolution 2278, which directs the president to transmit to Congress a report on anti-American incitement to violence in the Middle East. The bill suggests it should be the policy of the US to designate as SDGTs satellite providers that "knowingly and willingly contract with entities designated as SDGTs" to broadcast their channels, or to consider implementing other punitive measures against satellite providers that transmit terror-related channels. The bill was presented on May 6 and referred to the Foreign Affairs Committee. It also urges the US administration to reexamine its relations with countries that sponsor these channels. The bill urges governments and private investors who own shares in satellite companies or otherwise influence decisions about satellite transmissions to oppose transmission of telecasts by Al-Aqsa TV, Al-Manar TV, A-Rafidein TV or other similar channels designated as terrorist. The bill comes against a backdrop of increased tension between Cairo and Hizbullah, which owns Al-Manar, after Egypt apprehended a Hizbullah cell in its territory and said the network was planning terror attacks on Egyptian soil. It is possible that the timing of this bill was calculated to coincide with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak visit to the US and American President Barack Obama's visit to Egypt next month. Egypt is under US pressure to improve its human rights record and be more cooperative with US policies in the Middle East. The country receives considerable aid from the US and since Egypt has a vested interest in falling in line with American requests, it is likely to make NileSat concede to these demands. Al-Manar ("The Beacon") is known for its diatribes against Israel, the US and Muslim secularists. It is well-funded and remains one of the most popular stations in the Middle East. Meanwhile, there are reports that Qatar is considering launching a satellite company of its own to compete with ArabSat and NileSat. The new satellite operator, according to reports, will constitute a safety net for the popular Qatar-based Al-Jazeera channel, in case NileSat decides to stop carrying the channel.