Lebanon complains over Syrian TV ban
By Chris Forrester

The past few days have seen Syrian television output effectively banned from the Middle East’s two most powerful satellite operators, Arabsat and Nilesat. The decision came about because of a demand from the Arab League’s Foreign Ministers.

However, it is now clear that some segments of Pan-Arab opinion were against the decision. For example, Lebanon’s National Audio-Visual Council on June 6 condemned the banning saying it tampers with freedom of expression. Some Syrian journalists themselves staged a ‘sit-in’ in Damascus and denunciated the Arab League’s decision.

The Syrian Satellite Channel itself spoke of “a new type of media terrorism” in the decision.

Others, outside Syria, have also complained, saying that while they may disagree with the Syrian government line, viewers were now dependent on external broadcasters such as Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, CNN and the BBC for information.

The ban will also have commercial implications in that the Syrian channels held binding contracts with Arabsat and the other satellite broadcasters, and the decision might end up with litigation because those contracts have been suspended.