Al-Manar to be further investigated

February 4, 2010 by Henry Benjamin
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Al-Manar, the reported Hezbollah-backed TV station fed into Australia via satellite, is the subject of a new investigation by the Australian Communications and Media Authroity.

The ACMA enquiries will focus on how the station’s programming complies with Australian guidelines in the areas of terrorism and racial vilification and hate speech.

ECAJ President Robert Goot

ACMA will examine content broadcast by Al-Manar since December 2008.  In a statement released today ACMA outlined their immediate plans.

“In this investigation, the ACMA will take a broad approach which, among other matters, will consider community and industry standards, international regulatory approaches, specialist expertise within the Commonwealth and relevant research.

If members of the public are aware of specific content on the Al Manar service that they consider is terrorist-related or includes racial vilification and hate speech, they can refer this content to the ACMA for consideration as part of the investigation.

The investigation will have regard to all relevant information and evidence, and the ACMA anticipates that the investigation will be concluded by the middle of this year. At that time, the ACMA will determine whether any change to the current regulatory arrangements should be considered.

ACMA will receive submissions from the public up to March 5.

A delegation from the the Executive Council of Australian Jewry visited Canberra last August to discuss the station with Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.

J-Wire asked the ECAJ for comments on the news that a new investigation is to be undertaken.

President Robert Goot said: “The announcement by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) of a further investigation into Al-Manar TV is a most welcome development.  It is gratifying that the scope of the investigation, as announced by ACMA, incorporates the breaches of licence conditions by Al Manar that were specified in the ECAJ’s formal written submission to the government in September last year.”

“The ECAJ will be working closely with other interested organizations in the community to ensure that the complete range of matters referred to in the announcement, are thoroughly investigated.”

The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council also registered their concerns with the Minister.

Executive Director Colin Rubenstein said: ” We welcome the  announcement by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to re-open its investigation into whether Hezbollah’s television station al-Manar breaches Australia’s anti-terrorism standard.

A previous ACMA investigation into al-Manar, which found the station did not breach the anti-terrorism standard, was wanting in the scope and quality of its research.

According to ACMA, the new investigation will welcome public submissions. The regulatory authority conceded that the reason it re-opened its investigation was public concern over the limited number of al-Manar shows reviewed in the previous investigation, and the lack of specialist knowledge at ACMA, which caused it to overlook an advertisement directly recruiting funds for an Hezbollah-run organisation. Australia’s anti-terrorism standard stipulates television stations cannot directly recruit either members or funds for terrorist organisations. AIJAC made public its concerns at the time the previous report was published, with opinion pieces in The Age (August 7, 2009) and The Australian (August 11, 2009).

Dr Colin Rubenstein

I am satisfied that the new investigation will also investigate whether al-Manar breaches Australia’s racial vilification and hate speech code. Al-Manar is well known for its antisemitic content – including, most notoriously, material based on the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and the medieval blood libel accusing Jew of murdering non-Jews to use their blood for religious purposes.”

Dr. Rubenstein added, “ACMA’s decision to re-open its investigation of al-Manar is good news. Al-Manar is a station owned and operated by a terrorist organisation, which airs programs espousing hatred of Jews and glorification of terrorism.”

“We have long argued that either ACMA or the government undertake whatever initiative is required to change Australia’s anti-terrorism standard, to ensure that all media owned and operated by terrorist organisations be banned in Australia. It is with satisfaction that I note that ACMA will review its current regulatory arrangements upon the completion of this investigation,” he concluded.

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