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Emirati conglomerate drops plans for Lebanon TV channel over alleged threats

June 12, 2024 at 2:38 pm

Police and soldiers take security measures as depositors, whose deposit accounts have been frozen by the government for years, gather to stage a demonstration in front of the Bank of Lebanon in Beirut, Lebanon on January 19, 2024 [Houssam Shbaro – Anadolu Agency]

A wealthy Emirati businessman has scrapped plans to launch a new television channel in Lebanon, with his company alleging he and his staff had faced physical threats, Reuters reports.

Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor’s Dubai-based Al Habtoor Group conglomerate announced on Tuesday it had cancelled the launch of the television channel, which aimed to initially broadcast cultural, social and sporting programmes.

Al Habtoor Group cited “severe security challenges”, including what it called physical threats against its founder and chairman, Khalaf Al Habtoor, and staff members.

It said it had lodged criminal and civil complaints in Lebanon and elsewhere against those it said had menaced the Group and staff.

“Following the project announcement, the Group encountered a barrage of orchestrated campaigns including accusations, slander and threats,” Al Habtoor Group said in a statement.

It did not identify who it believed had been implicated in the “orchestrated campaigns”. The company thanked Lebanese Minister of Information, Ziad Makary, for his support.

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“We have encountered insurmountable obstacles that exceed what can reasonably be borne regarding the safety and security of our team,” Khalaf Al Habtoor said.

“We find ourselves compelled to seek an alternative to launching the project from Lebanon,” he said, citing a lack of necessary security and stability to proceed with the launch.

Makary told Reuters he regretted Al Habtoor’s decision. Asked about allegations of threats against Al Habtoor and his staff, Makary said: “We were prepared even if there were any threats to address them.”

Al Habtoor Group’s business interests span construction, real estate and hospitality in the Middle East, Europe and the United States. The Group has two Hilton hotels in Lebanon.

Khalaf Al Habtoor, a prominent Dubai businessman, has in the past been critical of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the heavily armed group, backed by Iran. Hezbollah has been declared a terrorist group by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf States and the United States.

The Gulf states, including the UAE, were once major investors in Lebanon but now largely shun it over Hezbollah, whose political party also sits in the parliament.

In 2018, Khalaf Al Habtoor said the Americans, Israelis and Europeans could “dismantle the threat of Hezbollah and rescue the Lebanese”, according to the Al Habtoor Group website.

He told a conference at the time: “The Lebanese are prisoners in their country. Members of Hezbollah are forming the government in Lebanon, I cannot understand it. We should not accept this.”

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