Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Journalists engaged in the political battle

Posted by worriedlebanese on 23/02/2007

An unsigned article appeared in yesterday’s L’Orient-Le Jour edition titled “The opposition’s sit-in transforms the city centre into a ghost town”. It is quite a good example in biased journalism and reportage. It’s unfortunately not an isolated case. The media is playing a very bad role in Lebanon, exacerbating the political conflict, strengthening the divide and the polarisation, keeping emotions strong and dominant and mobilising people with them (and under the same false headings used by the political leaders).
Usually people comment on the Lebanese televisions that are owned by political parties, their leaders or sympathisers: Manar (Hezbollah), Future (Future Movement), LBC (Lebanese Forces) & NBN (Amal). But little is said about the press. A closer look into the Lebanese newspapers is quite upsetting. It is unfortunately not completely reflected by the Reporters without frontier rating.
- Monopoly : The Lebanese press suffers from a monopoly. You cannot publish a political paper freely in Lebanon, you have to own a licence to do so. And the government doesn’t issue any new licences. So the only way to do it is to buy an already existing licence, something that is quite expensive.
- Lack of Freedom 1: For years, the Secret Service has been interfering and setting to rules to what can be published and what cannot. This “tradition” was established by President Fuad Chehab and it became much stronger under Elias Hraoui’s presidency (and Rafic Hariri’s premiership) where “red lines” were drawn and the Press respected them without budging (Its editors are middle-aged family men who wanted to go on with their lives).
- Lack of Freedom 2: The journalists have no editorial control. The power system is hierarchical and their freedom depends on the good will of the editor that the owner chooses freely.
- Lack of independent representatives: the head of the editor’s and the journalists syndicates (Mulhem Karam and Muhamad Baalbaki) have been unchanged for over twenty years. Theses syndicates are actually small clubs in which entry is heavily restricted. Their purpose is to promote a status quo in this business (quite a lucrative one because of foreign input), they are very fearful of change and do little to advance the Lebanese press.

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