Feds may be able to target al-Manar funding sources

WASHINGTON — Calling al-Manar television network “a mouthpiece of hatred and violence,” a bipartisan group of 51 senators sent a letter Tuesday to President Bush asking him to place the Middle Eastern broadcaster on the Treasury Dept.’s Specially Designated Global Terrorist list.

Unprecedented move — Treasury has never listed a broadcaster — would allow feds to target al-Manar’s funding sources as well as companies doing business with the net or its parent, Lebanese Communications Group. One known funder is Hezbollah, the organization responsible for terrorist attacks throughout the region.

“Viewed via satellite throughout the Muslim world,” the senators wrote, “al-Manar promotes suicide attacks against American and Israeli targets and encourages Iraqi insurgents to attack U.S. troops.”

Late last year, the administration put al-Manar on the State Dept.’s Terror Exclusion list, which allows the government to deport or deny admission to aliens involved with the net’s support for terrorism.

“But further acknowledgment of al-Manar’s role in spreading violence and hatred is warranted,” the letter said. Placing the net on the SDGT list “would allow the U.S. government to sanction foreign banks and freeze the financial assets of individuals or organizations that associate with the station.”

According to the Coalition Against Terrorist Media, al-Manar is broadcast to the Middle East, North Africa and Europe by Arabsat, the largest stockholders of which are the governments of Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Hong Kong-based AsiaSat broadcasts al-Manar to parts of Asia. GlobeCast, a subsidiary of France Telecom, feeds al-Manar to AsiaSat.

“The United States must use all available means to stop the transmission of al-Manar’s programs,” the senators wrote.

First two signatures on letter are those of Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.).

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more