PARIS — An Arab network at the center of a diplomatic row in France ceased broadcasting via Eutelsat Tuesday after it was banned by the country’s highest legal authority.
On Monday the State Council gave Paris-based Eutelsat 48 hours to stop transmitting Al Manar, following complaints about its anti-Semitic stance from Jewish organizations.
One fiction program that aired on the web showed Jewish men killing a Christian toddler to use his blood in matzo for Passover. The web also recently accused Israel of “crimes against humanity.”
The network, run by Lebanese militant org Hezbollah, volunteered to come off Eutelsat’s Hotbird 4 satellite, Eutelsat said Tuesday.
If it hadn’t, Eutelsat would have been forced to pull the plug on it and another eight Arab channels multiplexed with Al Manar by Tunisia-based operator Arabsat.
French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier defended the ban Tuesday.
“No one must be complacent about incitement to hatred,” he said. “French law is very clear about this, and it must be respected.”
The channel still can be received in France and other parts of Europe via three other satellites. Eutelsat CEO Giuliano Berretta said it would be “very, very difficult” to totally outlaw the channel without the cooperation of other countries.
The web also is beamed into American homes via Intelsat.
Al Manar condemned the French ban, calling it “an attack on freedom of speech” and a ‘dangerous precedent.”
Gallic press freedom watchdog Reporters Sans Frontieres said, “Simply closing down a (broadcaster) is never a good idea,” adding the French authorities had been “too hasty.”