Comparing live coverage between Paris and Beirut

Like the rest of the world, the Lebanese people were preoccupied with following up on the terrorist attacks in Paris. The Lebanese people’s interest in these developments in France seemed like an echo of what happened a day earlier in Beirut’s southern suburb of Borj al-Barajneh, where suicide bombers killed at least 40 and injured others.

It’s true that the attacks in Paris resulted in more human losses and that they were more dangerous than the level of the entire world; however, this did not prevent Lebanese people and other Arabs from comparing the two attacks - particularly in regards to media coverage.

Comments implied some sort of jealousy and joy, even though it’s about death here. A Lebanese girl called Teema wrote that if she’s destined to die in a terrorist attack, she’d rather be a victim in Paris and not in Lebanon - because in the French capital she may find someone to cover her body before taking pictures of her as she lies dead.

“Photos of me would thus not circulate on Facebook, and I’d be categorized as a victim regardless of my identity and religion,” she said. This comment, and many others like it, may not be exaggerated.

Our countries are full of security incidents, wars and explosions, and this has pushed all local and Arab media outlets towards fierce competition on their level of coverage, and particularly on the level of live coverage. Therefore when an explosion happens in the Arab world, live coverage often includes scenes of death, blood and human remains.

We’re almost incapable of counting the number of times when our hearts ache due to ‘live coverage’

Diana Moukalled

Coverage thus gets out of control as cameramen on field violate the sanctity of the dead and the privacy of the injured.

Filling the hours

Live coverage lasts for long hours - so how can they fill these hours? They therefore find it okay to unleash the emotions of angry citizens who’ve failed to control their anger and voice their hatred towards others. All this poisons the atmosphere.

We’re almost incapable of counting the number of times when our hearts ache due to “live coverage” which in fact has become “live chaos” as coverage lasts for hours under the excuse of following up on a security incident.

We’d see reporters struggling as they try to provide information or interview survivors or control broadcasting gruesome and bloody images. What’s disappointing is that most of the times, there are no real efforts to control this and coverage ends up full of tensions, fear, hatred and empty political analyses of a fresh event. We, until this day, still find someone who’d ask a child who just lost his parents in an explosion: “Where’s your mommy?”

The number of victims of the Paris attacks stands at almost 130, and all French and global media outlets covered the developing story. And although there are no restrictions there and no security monitoring like the situation in our countries, we did not see photos of dead people or human remains during the coverage of this incident. This reminds me of the September 11 attacks - until this day, we have not seen a single photo of blood or of a body.

No justification

There are no justifications at all as to why we haven’t yet learnt the lesson. We know the lesson well and all media outlets know their duties and responsibilities.

This is not about lack of experience and it’s neither about being under pressure nor seeking the element of surprise which leads to improper live coverage. Laziness and maliciousness - as well as the absence of professional deterrents and accountability - are what push some to disregard people’s lives and feelings.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Nov. 16, 2015


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Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.

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