Lebanon News

Unlicensed radio stations off the air again in media crackdown

General security forces yesterday shut down 11 radio stations in Sidon and the north after they defied a cabinet ban to broadcast without a licence.

Two weeks after Lubnan al-Mahaba, Sada Lubnan, and Radio Media ­ none of which are licensed ­ returned to the FM airwaves in Sidon, four members of general security forced their closure and confiscated broadcasting equipment, security sources confirmed to The Daily Star.

“Four men in civilian clothes unceremoniously  dissembled our equipment and loaded it into their cars. They did not show any official warrants and I could only tell they were from general security because I knew one of them personally,” said the director of Lubnan al-Mahabba, Ibtisam Shaaban.

She added that the security officials had also taken recording equipment used by the station in another commercial activity, recording tapes.

“These were never used for broadcasting. They confiscated equipment worth $4,000 in total. I hope they enjoy it ­ mabrouk,” Shaaban said.

The station had resumed broadcasting because it owed thousands of dollars worth of advertisements to local establishments, she said, asking the authorities to allow the station to broadcast until the end of the holiday season.

She added that the station had only resumed broadcasting after she discovered several other unlicensed stations were doing so.

“A government that finds it easy to oppress freedom also finds it easy to confiscate our expensive equipment. First thing tomorrow morning, I will go in search of a foreign country to emigrate to where the media is respected,” she said.

Radio Media was found deserted in the afternoon. An employee at Sada Lubnan refused to answer questions and would not confirm or deny that any of the station’s equipment had been confiscated.

The five-day media rebellion in the north, incited by Tripoli MP Omar Karami, was quashed when eight unlicensed FM stations were shut down.

Earlier this week, Karami called on unlicensed media to resume broadcasting “because the media law was applied in the wrong way”.

General security personnel shut down five stations in Tripoli ­ Sawt al-Madina, Sawt al-Janna, Sawt al-Jil, Shabab al-Farah and al-Nujum, as well as Zghorta’s Samar, Koura’s Sigma and Batroun’s Flash.

In Tripoli, followers of the Islamic Tawheed movement gathered to protest against the government’s refusal to grant a licence to the party’s radio station, Sawt al-Haq.

After hearing Islamic Tawheed leader Sheikh Saeed Shaaban’s sermon at al-Amin mosque yesterday, the demonstrators marched to the Sawt al-Haq premises.

The radio station and its sister television station al-Hilal were shut down in September by security forces, where two people of the party’s followers died and two were injured in the confrontation that ensued.

Islamic Tawheed members yesterday denied rumours that the group would the defy the law and resume broadcasting during Ramadan.

“We will continue to demand our rights through peaceful means, because we are determined to provide for our security, more so than the officials who have killed and used force against the people,” Shaaban said during the sermon.

He added that he would personally ensure that any Tawheed followers who participated in violent acts of protest would be detained and handed over to the authorities.

“Even if the government is ignoring the people’s rights, we can, through peaceful and legal means, cause this government to fall and replace it with one that is more just,” he said.

He accused the authorities of deliberately trying to ignore the voice of the Muslim population.

“All we want is a balance between lewd media that are allowed to operate and ethical stations that have been silenced. It is the government’s duty to distribute rights equally. Muslims comprise almost 70 per cent of the population and cannot be ignored,” he said.

He said he had hoped the religious authorities would have been the ones to wage a battle to claim the rights of Muslims.

“It is a shame political and religious authorities who officially represent Muslims have remained silent through fear of losing their office,“ he said.

Despite the action to end the unlicensed media issue in the north and the south, two Bekaa-based unlicensed radio stations continued to broadcast. Sawt al-Muqawama, supporting former Hizbullah leader sheikh Sobhi Toufeili and Sawt al-Mustadafin, close to the mainstream Hizbullah leadership, are still on air.





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