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Lebanon’s protests and obsession with media

In Lebanon, protest organizers have since day one been aware of the importance of media coverage

Diana Moukalled

Published: Updated:

“If reporters leave, God knows what they would do to us.” That was a common expression during live coverage of Lebanese youths protesting against the country’s political system under the slogan “You Stink.” One could sense real fear, which was sometimes exaggerated, of a confrontation between protestors and security forces if media outlets were not present to cover it.

Lebanese activists seemed worried about experiencing the same thing as protesters in Arab Spring countries, particularly after witnessing several Lebanese security forces’ heavy-handedness against them.

In just a few days, Lebanon’s activists exhausted most means of mobilization and communication that protesters in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and Yemen resorted to. They even tried to add to them. It became clear that their biggest worry was the absence of media coverage. This is understandable when looking at what happened in other countries in the past four years.

In Syria, for example, the regime prevented media coverage of protests from day one, and banned Western and Arab press. It then cracked down on protests, and tortured and killed citizens, reassured that there was no press coverage. Syrians thus used their smart phones to inform the world of what was happening to them.

In Lebanon, protest organizers have since day one been aware of the importance of media coverage

Diana Moukalled

In Egypt, activists and opposition figures struggle to break the official media siege that they thought ended after the revolution, only to realize four years later that it has further tightened and that, in the best-case scenario, it has ingratiated itself with the authorities. The same applies to Libya and Yemen.

Media influence

In Lebanon, protest organizers have since day one been aware of the importance of media coverage, whether in its traditional or modern form. The movement has also benefitted from relative freedom in the country.

Perhaps the strongest aspect of the movement is the bold slogans rejecting all Lebanese leaders via banners, graffiti and chants. There were, however, attempts to prevent including certain politicians, such as Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, in protest slogans. One of the important slogans is “Everyone means everyone,” indicating the desire for a new political category outside the March 8 and March 14 coalitions.

However, awareness of the importance of media coverage requires further consideration. The media gave the movement a platform, but some outlets resorted to exaggeration. Divisions dominate the Lebanese media, and all political parties suspect the movement’s motives. Media coverage has thus been divided between support for and suspicion of the protests. As such, depending too much on the media is a double-edged sword.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on September 7, 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.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.