Hamas TV forced to halt broadcasts to Europe

Published Date: June 16, 2010 

GAZA CITY: A France-based satellite provider is halting broadcasts of the Hamas 
TV channel to Europe and parts of the Arab world because of concerns that it 
spreads incitement, a station official said yesterday. The decision will 
deprive Gaza-based Al-Aqsa TV of most of its viewers, said the channel's head, 
Hazem Sharawy. The Hamas station , best known for its children's programs 
glorifying violence against Israel , is the centerpiece of a growing media 
operation of Gaza's Islamic militant Hamas rulers.
Losing the satellite provider will hamper the group's attempts to spread its 
message and raise funds abroad.

The decision to cut off the Hamas station came six years after a similar move 
by France and the US against al-Manar, the channel of Lebanese guerrilla group 
Hezbollah. In Paris, Eutelsat spokeswoman Vanessa O'Connor said that last week 
the French broadcasting regulator CSA ordered it to stop beaming the Hamas 
channel into Europe by June 26. Al-Aqsa TV is part of a package of channels 
transmitted by Bahrain-based satellite operator Noorsat, which passes them in a 
single signal to Eutelsat, O'Connor said.

Eutelsat has passed on the CSA's order to stop transmitting al-Aqsa TV to 
Noorsat. O'Connor said it was up to Noorsat to block the al-Aqsa TV signal. She 
would not comment on what would happen if Noorsat doesn't comply with the CSA 
order by the June 26 deadline. Sharawy said Noorsat called late Monday, telling 
Al-Aqsa TV that its programs incite to hatred. The al-Aqsa chief alleged that 
the decision was politically motivated and meant to silence criticism of 
Israel. "The enemy (Israel) can kill us, destr
oy our lands and blockade us. But we aren't allowed to expose them," Sharawy 

The Hamas channel immediately flipped into campaign mode Monday. The top left 
hand corner of the channel showed a countdown and read "time remaining for 
broadcast." The satellite broadcasts, which reach Europe, North Africa and 
parts of the Gulf, are expected to be halted Thursday, Sharawy said. The 
channel is not beamed to the US Al-Aqsa's second satellite provider only 
reaches viewers in the Middle East, he said. Viewers can also still watch the 
station on the Internet.

Sharawy said he did not know how many viewers the station had, but that viewer 
phone calls and text messages indicate the bulk are from outside Gaza. He said 
the station's coverage during Israel's three-week war with Hamas in Gaza that 
ended in January 2009 dramatically boosted al-Aqsa TV's popularity. During the 
war, the station's building was bombed and employees broadcast from a secret 
location. In the past, Israel and others have repeatedly accused al-Aqsa TV of 
inciting against Israel, especially in
children's programs.

One of its most criticized programs, Tomorrow's Pioneers, once featured a 
high-pitched Mickey Mouse rip-off called "Farfour" who encouraged children to 
fight against the occupiers of Muslim countries, while taking calls from kids 
who were praised for singing about fighting Israel. After a wave of criticism, 
the station killed off Farfour with mock-Israeli soldiers beating him to death. 
But it has not toned down the message of its children's programs.

The station is popular with conservative Muslims in Gaza for its Islamic-based 
programming. Women wear headscarves and sometimes face veils on morning talk 
shows. Music videos show girls modestly dressed in headscarves singing, as well 
as gunslinging militants fighting Israel and chanting for revenge. The 
channel's lengthy interview programs provide the Hamas viewpoint to the world. 
Hamas sees media outreach as a vital part of the movement's success.

It has another television channel that broadcasts from Lebanon, several 
affiliated Web sites, a radio station, a glossy magazine for its military wing 
and two newspapers printed in Gaza. The militant group has also produced a 
movie glorifying one their militants and created animations boasting about 
their capture of an Israeli soldier held for the last four years in Gaza.

Six years ago, Hezbollah's Al-Manar television was also limited. At the time, 
France's highest administrative body banned satellite broadcasts by the 
Lebanese television station. Later, the US State Department placed the 
Hezbollah station on its list of terror organizations for broadcasting 

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