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Bill targets Arab satellite channels

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, 17 December 2009 - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said that a bill, backed by the majority of the U.S. Congress, penalising Arab satellite channels considered "enemies of the United States" was a blow to freedom of expression and represented a betrayal of U.S. promises to improve its poor record on civil and political freedoms locally and internationally.

On 8 December 2009, the majority of Congress - 395 of a total 495 members, with only 3 voting against - voted to impose sanctions on satellite channels that broadcast content that could be interpreted as "hostile to the United States" and to consider the owners of these channels as supervising "terrorist organizations."

ANHRI said, "This bill severely conflicts with international standards and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ratified by the United States, and repeats many of the serious mistakes of the former U.S. administration . . . "

The Arabic Network added, "The threat of penalising channels that broadcast 'hostile' or 'terrorist' content without defining these loose terms, is a form of bullying, especially since these terms may refer to material that supports the right to resist the Israeli occupation of Palestine or the American occupation of Iraq. There is a big difference between terrorism and resistance."

ANHRI called on all human rights organisations defending freedom of expression and freedom of the press to condemn this bill and urged the United States to rectify this grave mistake by declining this project. It added that under the Obama administration, new faces have gone on stage, yet the same hostility to freedoms has been inherited from the previous administration.

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