Three unlicensed radio stations in Sidon have resumed broadcasting despite information minister Bassem Sabaa’s threats that unlicensed media would face closure and prosecution.
Radio Media, owned by Maher Hariri, Lubnan al-Mahabba, owned by Amin Khaled and Sada Lubnan, owned by Michel Seikali, have all resumed broadcasting either to pay off advertisement money they received before being ordered to shut down or because they claim their licensing was assured.
A manager at Radio Media, who refused to give his name, said a high-ranking official had promised him a licence. “I resumed broadcasting ten days ago when I was told I would receive a licence soon,” he said.
The manager said that no one had ordered him to stop broadcasting. “We’re only broadcasting songs and repeating some taped programmes and eight advertisements,” he said.
The director of Lubnan al-Mahabba, Ibtisam Shaaban, said that the station started broadcasting songs and advertisements three days ago.
“I don’t have a licence but I have to honour advertisement agreements that were signed before the (cabinet) decision to shut down unlicensed media was made,” Shaaban said.
She said she had $12,000 worth of advertisements to broadcast.
“I also decided to resume broadcasting because there are other unlicensed media in Beirut owned by or connected to influential people which haven’t stopped,” she added.
Wahib Seikali, son of Sada Lubnan’s owner, said that the station had a merger licence with other licensed stations but he refused to disclose their names.
“We’re simply broadcasting on a trial basis until we receive our license within 15 days,”
As a result of the illegal broadcasts, an official of the Islamic fundamentalist group al-Jamaa al-Islamiya said that the group was also considering returning to the airwaves.
Ali Ammar, the director of the party’s Fajr radio station said that it too would resume broadcasting, even if it was illegal, since other unlicensed stations were doing the same.
“Even if we don’t get a licence, we’re thinking of broadcasting during Ramadan,” he said.