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Prosecuting TV Provider Raises Free Speech Questions, NYCLU Says

The NYCLU today expressed serious concern about the prosecution of a satellite TV provider, Javed Iqbal, for allegedly importing and distributing TV broadcasts from a source of which the government disapproves.

“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,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director. “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 ideas is.”

Iqbal was arrested Wednesday because his Brooklyn-based company HDTV Ltd. was allegedly providing New York-area customers with the TV channel al-Manar, which is linked to Hezbollah. Prosecutors charged that it is a crime to conduct business with al-Manar because the U.S. Treasury Department has designated Hezbollah a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity. Federal authorities have charged Iqbal with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

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