Lebanon’s Media Committee Is Blocking Two Critical TV Channels From Broadcasting In “Hezbollah Areas”

Hussein Hajj Hassan | DW

MP Hussein Hajj Hassan, a pro-Hezbollah official who heads the Lebanese parliament’s media committee, held an exceptional meeting to discuss the role of the authorities in handling what they state as “unethical media coverage.”

During the meeting, officials delved into how to “properly” cover Hezbollah-related issues, after a deputy of the party reportedly objected to accusations targeted against them in the media.

However, attacks and threats against media reporters remained secondary issues, as did the blocking of Al-Jadeed and MTV from broadcasting in Hezbollah-controlled districts.

Al-Jadeed has been blocked by Lebanon’s governmental media committee from broadcasting to multiple districts around the country for over a year now, according to an Al-Jadeed journalist.

MTV was second to follow after the station recently aired Dima Sadek’s episode in which she accused the Iran-backed group of being behind Lokam Slim‘s murder.

“If you broadcast something that targets a specific crowd, that crowd will have a reaction,” the head of the parliament’s media committee justified the blocking, yet ignored the fact that it is not the crowd that created the blocking but a committee that works for the government.

He also missed addressing the most important topic here, which is the civic right of the Lebanese citizens in these areas to get equally informed, like all across the country, of different opinions and different press reports.

MP Hajj Hassan explained that while covering issues critical of a specific party, such as the aftermath of the assassination of anti-Hezbollah activist Lokman Slim, the media stations should consider that individuals will have a reaction towards the coverage.

He went on to insinuate that the reaction of individuals who follow a certain sect is understandable and that the media stations should take that into consideration before airing anything that might be considered “sensitive” to some.

It is important to clarify that it is not the sect that was targeted by the blocked media channels but Hezbollah, a political and militant party that does not represent all the Shia sect.

Depriving a whole region of their rights of free access to the press goes even against the democratic values that are an inherent part of the Lebanese constitution.

Lebanese residents in these areas, as it is, don’t get to decide on their own if they want or not to watch the local channels of Al-Jadeed and MTV.

Similarly, raising a red flag of “sensitivity” when it comes to Hezbollah only, while all other political parties and officials, even in the case of the presidency versus MTV, never had that special treatment, is strikingly indicative of the grip Hezbollah has on the media committee.

In fact, Karma Khayyat, CEO and Vice president of Al-Jadeed, responded by accusing the committee to be a “media committee run on Hezbollah‘s affairs.”

Khayyat went on to compare the meeting of the media committee to a mock trial that attempted to put on the heavyweight of the ruling class’s failure on the media’s shoulder.

Inadequate and unethical as it is, this newly reiterated action against the press, as well as the given justification, triggered public reactions.

The meeting did not conclude with a solution, as the two media stations remain blocked from broadcasting to Hezbollah-dominated areas, which comes as another blow to the freedom of the press that has seen a decline in Lebanon.