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August 20, 2007

Sectarianism in the Lebanese Media

Filed under: Uncategorized — lisoosh @ 2:53 pm

Americans tend to believe that the media must be impartial. In America, even partisan outlets like to call themselves “fair and balanced”. So it frequently comes as a surprise to them that this is not necessarily the case in other parts of the world. In the UK for instance, newspapers will frequently define themselves as right leaning or left leaning and will happily endorse political canditates for Prime Minister according to their party. This tends to work out where the intended audience knows this and factors this in. Where things become confused is where the digital age has opened up local media to a global audience which is not tuned in to local social mores. Many times I have seen a foreign reader make proclamations concerning a nation using a local media resource without realizing that the single source’s goal is to represent one side in a national discourse.

One such country is Lebanon, where major media outlets are in fact owned by different factions and exist to promote their agendas.

From Lebanon Unplugged.

“Lebanese journalism in Lebanon comes close to nothing but biased to a certain political party or entity. Journalism in Lebanon has lost its meaning, it has lost all of its integrity and objectivity in my eyes, and has turned into nothing but a tool of one of the most fiercest propaganda wars that Lebanon has faced in a long time, maybe since its independence.
But the metaphysical nature has an interesting twist to it. In Lebanon, as a journalist, if you somewhat come close to the truth you are actually set free from your physical nature. To put it more bluntly, you are killed.”

Or from Free Mediathe online publication of the International Press Institute.

“The mission concluded that many publications and radio and television stations are close to political and religious groups, and are, at times, promoting specific political agendas. As media outlets asserted their positions on controversial issues, journalists were increasingly being seen not as independent observers, but as representatives of political movements, open to attack from opposing factions.
This politicization has affected every aspect of the Lebanese media and it has become increasingly difficult for journalists to express an opinion without being accused of serving one political faction or another. Pressure from readers had intensified, as had editorial interference by political representatives.
The level of self-censorship has increased throughout the media. Journalists, who previously have been outspoken critics of political and social developments, now question how safe they are when taking a controversial stand on such issues.”

And Paul Cochrane in a May 2007 article in Arab Media Society asks “Are Lebanons Media Fanning the Flames of Sectarianism?”

Lebanese TV channels are split into two camps: on the one hand, Hizbullah-backed Al Manar TV, the National Broadcasting Network (NBN) and New TV pro-opposition, and on the other hand, Mustaqbal (Future) TV and the Lebanese Broadcasting Company (LBC) pro-government.[3]

“Every Lebanese TV channel has a propaganda leaning. Some try to be balanced, but all have their agendas. It’s pretty clear from the content they produce,” said Habib Battah, Managing Editor of the Beirut-based Middle East Broadcasters Journal.

…Nabil Dajani, a communications professor at the American University of Beirut, said the media were deliberately inflaming sectarianism, but believed the blame does not lie solely with the media.”

It is in many ways not surprising that with Lebanon divided along sectarian lines, the media reflects this. Especially when the consequences for not toeing the line can be extreme.

What is truly important is that international readers know and understand this, especially when quoting one Lebanese source as the “de facto” expert.


1 Comment »

  1. I am a Lebanese citizen who is thinking of traveling, but i love my country so much because it is my land, my soil, my sole reason for existence and if every Lebanese person acknowledges that fact Lebanon would be better off and we would think of the good for the group or the whole country rather than what is good for us as individuals.

    Comment by lebanese4life — May 7, 2008 @ 1:46 pm

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