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Satellite operator drops Hezbollah TV

April 6, 2016

A leading Arab satellite operator cut transmission of Hezbollah’s television channel Al-Manar on Wednesday amid soaring tensions between the Lebanese Shiite group’s backer Iran and Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia.

“Nilesat informed the (Lebanese) telecommunications ministry of the need to stop transmitting Al-Manar channel through the Nilesat satellite,” Lebanon’s National News Agency reported.

“The management of Nilesat said the reason for the request… was that it had violated their agreement by airing programmes that provoke sectarian strife and sedition.”

Nilesat did not immediately comment when contacted by AFP at its Cairo headquarters.

The cut came ahead of a planned visit by Saudi King Salman to Egypt, which operates the Nilesat satellite.

Last month, Gulf Arab states led by Saudi Arabia blacklisted Hezbollah, the leading force in Lebanon’s governing bloc, as a “terrorist” organisation.

The kingdom halted a $3 billion programme of military aid to Lebanon to protest what it said was “the stranglehold of Hezbollah on the state”.

It also urged its citizens to leave Lebanon and avoid travelling there.

Al-Manar said on Twitter that it could still be watched via a Russian satellite or online.

The moves against Hezbollah come amid a spike in tensions between its backer Tehran and Riyadh this year after demonstrators stormed the kingdom’s missions in Iran following Saudi Arabia’s execution of a Shiite cleric.

The kingdom cut diplomatic ties with Iran and led Arab allies in a series of retaliatory measures against it.

While Saudi Arabia is the main supporter of Syria’s Sunni-led rebels, Hezbollah is fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s troops, who are backed by Iranian military advisers.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.