Goldstein News – September 2009
As someone who is a passionate supporter of free speech, I am extremely uncomfortable with the idea of government censorship. In a free and pluralistic society like Australia, divergent views and beliefs should be tolerated and not impeded by the power of the state. There should be very few exceptions to this principle. That is why the Victorian Racial and Religious Tolerance Act, which restricts free speech, is so dangerous.
Yet there are clearly some instances where we must draw a line. Incitement to violence and support for terrorism are not acceptable in Australian society. We should not tolerate those who advocate violent means to resolving their disputes nor those who advocate the death of civilians to achieve political goals.
That is why it was surprising and disappointing to hear of a recent decision by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. The Authority conducted an investigation into the Lebanese based Al-Manar television network after receiving complaints. Australians who wish to tune in to Al-Manar typically do so by picking up broadcasts from Indonesia via satellite.
Al-Manar is wholly owned and operated by the Lebanese terrorist organisation Hezbollah. Al-Manar is banned in Germany, the United States, Canada and France. In fact, Al-Manar has in the past also been banned from broadcasting in Australia.
After complaints, ACMA spent one week this year observing the broadcast of this station. It found that Al-Manar did not breach Australian broadcast standards which prohibit solicitation of funds for terrorist organisations and cannot recruit people to join terrorist organisations.
This is surprising. In 2003 Al-Manar broadcast a program based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forgery which alleges that Jews have a secret plot to take over the world. Other programs broadcast on the channel have openly endorsed suicide bombing, called for the violent destruction of Israel and peddled anti-semitic slurs and lies. Shortly after September 11, Al-Manar reported the vicious conspiracy theory that 4,000 Jews did not show up for work at the World Trade Centre on the day of the attacks.
This issue is a key test for the Rudd Government. Will they intervene and overrule the clearly inappropriate decision by ACMA, or will they continue to allow the propaganda arm for a terrorist organisation to broadcast its message of hate and violence into Australia?