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Alert: NTV channel owner's arrest

Posted: Tue Dec 09, 2003 5:31 pm
by zeez
LEBANON - 9 December 2003

Fear of threat to broadcast media after TV channel owner's arrest

Reporters Without Borders today warned the Lebanese authorities against obstructing press freedom following the arrest of commercial TV channel owner Tahsin Khayat, and it urged the political class not to sacrifice diversity in the news media, especially the broadcast media, in the interests of political rivalry.

"The arrest of a TV station owner for apparently political reasons is a source of legitimate concern, especially as this is without precedent in Lebanon," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said.

"Although the TV station's broadcasts were not suspended, we must be vigilant and ask the authorities to guarantee to respect its freedom, whatever the charges against its owner and the political scores to be settled," Ménard added.

Khayat, who is the owner of New Television (NTV) and a businessman opposed to the prime minister Rafic Hariri, was arrested on the orders of the military prosecutor on 5 December and was freed on bail the next day, charged with "presumed links with Israel" and "harming Lebanon's relations with its friends."

The authorities maintain that his arrest is in no way linked to NTV's exhaustive coverage of the Al-Medina bank fraud, but observers are concerned about the impact of this unprecedented development on the freedom of Lebanon's broadcast media, already severely restricted in the past two years.

NTV was the victim of government censorship on Jan. 1, 2003 when, under pressure from Saudi Arabia, its satellite relay was cut by the Lebanese telecommunications ministry on Prime Minister Rafic Hariri's orders to prevent the broadcasting of a programme in which members of the Saudi opposition spoke.

Another commercial station, Murr Television (MTV), was shut down for good by the media court of appeal at the end of last year, thereby silencing the only TV station linked to opposition groups that criticise Syria's influence in Lebanon. Most observers viewed the closure as politically-motivated.

Séverine Cazes-Tschann
Middle East Desk

Reporters Without Borders

National Audiovisual Council says NTV broke law

Posted: Tue Dec 16, 2003 6:29 pm
by zeez
The Daily Star
Dec 16, 2003

"National Audiovisual Council says NTV broke law"

The National Audiovisual Council announced on Monday that New Television (NTV) violated several articles of the radio and television broadcast law.
In a meeting, the council conferred about Friday’s news bulletin introduction, in which the station announced the departure of news broadcaster Dalia Ahmed to Washington to work at a news station founded by the CIA.
The cause of her departure was the alleged indirect pressure exerted by the head of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon, General Rustom Ghazaleh.
The council examined a copy of the news bulletin introduction in the presence of the news and political program director Maryam Bassam.
According to the council, the text did not respect “the objectivity of news broadcasting,” neither did it “preserve public order, the needs of national defense and the rules of public interest.”
The council decided to submit a report to Information Minister Michel Samaha proposing that legal measures be adopted against NTV and Bassam.

NTV hit by 2-day shutdown

Posted: Wed Dec 17, 2003 6:58 pm
by zeez
The Daily Star
Dec 17, 2003

"NTV hit by 2-day shutdown over news violations"

Information Minister Michel Samaha suspended Tuesday the broadcasting of news bulletins and political programs as well as the reading of newspaper headlines on New Television (NTV) satellite and terrestrial channels for two days.
The decision took effect at 3pm Tuesday and will run until 3pm Thursday.
Samaha also warned NTV’s management not to commit similar offenses in the future, saying the station would be subject to the law concerning the repetition of violations.
The National Audiovisual Media Council (...) requested NTV chairman Tahseen Khayyat to send a copy of Friday’s bulletin and to appear before the council to answer questions from the council’s president, Abdel-Hadi Mahfouz. The council also met with Bassam.
After the meeting, the council conferred about the news bulletin’s introduction, in which the station announced the departure to Washington of former news broadcaster, Dalia Ahmad, to work for a news station founded by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
The news bulletin also severely criticized the director-general of the Surete Generale, Major General Jamil Sayyed, and the chief of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon, Major General Rustom Ghazaleh. Ghazaleh allegedly exerted indirect pressure, which contributed to Ahmad’s departure.

Reporters Without Borders brands as harassment a 48-hour ban

Posted: Fri Dec 19, 2003 4:43 am
by zeez
Reporters Without Borders has branded as harassment a 48-hour ban on news and political broadcasts on the independent New Television (NTV), in a letter to Lebanese information minister Michel Samaha. The ban began on 16 December at 15.00 hours.

"The attitude of the Lebanese authorities towards the media, in particular broadcasters, is completely unacceptable. What type of state is it that carries out harassment campaigns against some media, going so for as to slap such an absurd ban on news programmes?" said Robert Ménard, secretary general of Reporters Without Borders.
"Political, legal and governmental interference in the media have increased since the indefinite closure of Murr TV last year, leaving Lebanon as a pitiful example of press freedom for Arab countries. In addition, these obstacles have a disastrous impact on the work of journalists who feel themselves more and more watched and threatened by the authorities", said Ménard.

NTV was accused by the information ministry of breaking the broadcast media law by putting out "subjective" news about the resignation of one of its presenters, Dalia Ahmad. The television suggested on 12 December that the head of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon, Gen. Roustom Ghazalé, and the director general of the Lebanese Surete Generale, Gen. Jamil Sayyed, were involved in the journalist - a Sudanese national - being refused her work permit or residence permit.

On 6 December, the owner of NTV, Tahsin Khayat, was arrested by military police for "suspected links with Israel", before being released 24-hours later. Khayat accused the intelligence services of being behind his arrest, during which he had a number of documents seized.
This harassment campaign against the television, known for its critical stance towards the government, could be linked to the exhaustive cover by NTV of a criminal case involving the Al-Medina bank, in which several political figures were implicated.

Reporters Without Borders

Last years' ban: January 2003

Posted: Mon Dec 22, 2003 12:53 am
by zeez
BBC World

Wednesday, 1 January, 2003, 22:11 GMT
Lebanon bans programme on Saudi Arabia

The Lebanese government has cut the satellite service of a private Lebanese television station, NTV, to prevent the broadcast of a programme on Saudi Arabia.
A spokesman for NTV, Sahar Arnawt, said the Ministry of Telecommunications ordered the shutdown of the station's satellite link for broadcasts to the Arab world.

He said the measure had been taken after NTV refused to drop a programme called "Without Censorship", which deals with Saudi-American relations, US bases in Saudi Arabia and the country's political situation.

It is not clear whether NTV will regain its satellite facility in the future.

In September, the government closed Murr Television and Mt Lebanon radio for violating a law that bans political party propaganda.