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Friday, August 25, 2006

Rebroadcasting Hizbullah

I have hesitated to blog about the arrest yesterday of Javed Iqbal for re-broadcasting Hizbullah television broadcasts to his clients in the New York area because I wasn't sure exactly what he was being charged with. He's being prosecuted under a law that forbids business transactions with terrorist organizations, and I assumed that he was being prosecuted for having purchased the television transmissions from Hizbullah.

If that, in fact, is the basis for the prosecution, I suppose I can accept it. After all, giving money to a terrorist organization is providing them direct aid.

In today's NY Times article on the arrest, however, it appears that perhaps the government was simply arresting him for disseminating Hizbullah's TV broadcasts, without Iqbal's necessarily having paid Hizbullah anything for them. If that's the case, it's hard to tell how, for example, that would differ materially from, say, a CNN reporter on the scene in Lebanon telling us what a Hizbullah spokesman had said about the Israeli attacks. The CNN reporter would be disseminating Hizbullah's views, and, if that's considered illegally aiding a terrorist organization, then virtually any reporting about the terrorists would be illegal.

Here's what the ACLU spokes person said about it:

“It appears that the statute under which Mr. Iqbal is being prosecuted includes a First Amendment exemption that prevents the government from punishing people for importing news communications,” Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “Such an exemption is constitutionally necessary, and the fact that the government is proceeding with the prosecution in spite of it raises serious questions about how free our marketplace of idea is.”
Once again, it looks as though the government is way over-stepping its bounds.

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