A Lebanese judge has ruled that Al-Manar TV – a satellite television channel closely affiliated with Hezbollah – should be put back on the air by its former satellite broadcasting provider Arabsat.
In December 2015 Arabsat dropped Al-Manar TV claiming that the channel had violated the terms of its agreement with the Saudi Arabian-headquartered satellite company. Arabsat alleges that Al-Manar TV violated the agreement by broadcasting biased content and for its support of Hezbollah.
Hasan Hamdan, the Lebanese Judge of Urgent Matters, ruled on 2 December 2016 that Arabsat should resume broadcasting Al-Manar TV as soon as possible, and asserted that his legal authority on the matter is derived from his ability to look into, “urgent matter cases which have occurred in his constituency.”
The Director-General of Al-Manar TV, Ibrahim Farhat, hailed the judge’s ruling as a victory for media rights in Lebanon, and said, “In my opinion, this (ruling) is a victory for freedom of expression. It’s a victory for the entire Lebanese media outlets, and not just for Al-Manar.”
Yet many commentators claim that Judge Hamdan’s ruling does not have any authority over Arabsat, who moved their offices out of Lebanon to Jordan. Furthermore, legal commentators doubt that the contract between Arabsat and and Al-Manar TV falls under the jurisdiction of Lebanese law. One unnamed commentator is quoted in various reports as saying, “It would only apply if their contract was governed by Lebanese laws and that is very unlikely.”
In April 2016 the Egyptian satellite communications company, Nilesat, also dropped Al-Manar TV. Arabsat vacated its Beirut office, and moved to Jordan, after the Lebanese government refused to take action against Al-Mayadeen TV for hosting a guest who was critical of Saudi Arabian policies in Lebanon.
Since being dropped by both Arabsat and Nilesat, Al-Manar TV is now broadcast online and via satellites owned by the Russian Satellite Communications Company as well as Indonesian satellites.
The dispute between Arabsat and Al-Manar TV is part of the wider sectarian conflicts that are occurring in several Middle East countries, to include Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia.