Lebanon cherishes its freedom of speech and media, but I don’t feel I am exaggerating if I describe the Lebanese media as a plague which contribute to sectarianism and political void. I tend to come out with a headache or food ingestion when I watch their news.
Of course media can be politicised, but it’s done the wrong way in Lebanon. All sides are on high alert as if they are fighting a war, and the media is one of the weapons and ramparts at the same time.Lebanese media are directed by its political patronage, sectarian inclinations or just urge to show their politicians views with no real substance, reform agenda or impartiality.
This is what we knew from a newly released report on the Word Press Freedom Day this week on the state of media in 16 Arab countries. As you might have expected, the report scored poorly the Lebanese media.
Lebanon media scored two out of four as an overall assessment which contained six main subjects: freedom of speech, professional journalism, plurality of news, business management, supporting institutions and serving public needs. It says it all when our media got 1.28 out of four in the ‘serving public needs’ category.
This is a no surprise when our Lebanese TV stations start their newscast with an editorial that sets its political agenda and direct the viewer into specific direction. These introductions have become the daily focus of political reporting where even news websites summarise them. In reality, you can’t count on one organisation to know the truth or the full picture.
The bulk of their newscast is spent on who the politicians hosted in their office and what rubbish they said on the day. Usually the rubbish would be some uttering against a previous rubbish from the other side. So we could spend some time with this ping-pong politics, with no extra objective efforts from the media to know truth. It gets better when they accuse each other of corruption, so you come out with one conclusion: both sides are highly qualified to be thieves.
The other part of their newscast can contain some ‘investigative journalism’ with clear political aims. Take this awkward report in Arabic from Almanar which I repost here. Almanar were convinced that Walid Jumblatt had a mental problem due to his political flip-flopping, so they interviewed some doctors, apparently, to justify their view. This is the kind of journalism you get in Lebanon.
Some top channels host different political points of views, but it stays within the cosmetic touch up. Moreover, they contribute to keeping the political scene a closed club that contains known pre-determined substance-less views. When was the last time you heard an independent view outside the March 8 or March 14 camps? May be they are not mainstream, but how they can be when we all run with this vicious circle of coverage?
Below is a another video on the difference of reporting between Lebanese channels from the NGO Maharat Foundation who is working hard on raising the awareness on this subject.