Coverage of the FPM rally in the media

The rally on Friday by the Free Patriotic Movement, which was attended by tens of thousands of supporters, received much coverage from the Lebanese media.

Most TV stations covered the event live, allowing Lebanese not just in Lebanon, but all over the world to watch the event live.
It was interesting to read the perspective of certain media outlets, especially those that are known to be affiliated with political groups opposed to the reform agenda of the FPM. Lebanon is a country with an economy driven by service industries. Industries such as banking, tourism and even journalism, given that there is no such thing as a profitable newspaper in the country and without financial backing by individuals, political parties or generous nations, they would have to close their doors.

In an editorial piece for the Daily Star English newspaper written on the 5th September, the editor chose to totally ignore the message of the protest, which called for elections as a solution to the political crises. They also chose to ignore the grievances of the large number of ordinary Lebanese citizens that were present at the rally.

Rather the editor of the Daily star attempted to portray the speech of Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil as a sectarian “Christian” speech which was labelled as “very inflammatory and dangerous”.

It appears that a call for new elections in order for the people to have their say on the political impasse is seen by the Daily Star as dangerous.
The editor, almost angry that his newspaper’s constant claims for years that the FPM was finished were once again proven incorrect, then goes on to claim that General Aoun lit a fuse by protesting. “Any party can take to the streets when it wants, but that’s not how democracies work. Now that Aoun has lit the fuse, why should other parties not decide to react in the same manner? This is a dangerous game and one Aoun should have thought about before igniting it”.

It seems that the editor of the Daily Star is unaware that peaceful protests are a basic right in any democratic understanding and are enshrined in the Lebanese constitution. It also contradicts the outright support the same editor has given to “Arab Spring” revolutions in every country ( as well as the recent “You Stink” demonstrations) that they have occurred. This contradiction is not surprising given that it is the same newspaper that used to declare the Syrian occupation of Lebanon as “Temporary, legal and necessary”.

Maybe the “Pipe Dream” that the editor was referring to was the dream of a fair and representative political system and an end to corruption?
In another article in the same newspaper by reporter Nazih Osseiran entitled “FPM protesters demand fair polls, the reporter sets the scene by downplaying the size of the demonstration, referring to “thousands” of protesters.

Attempting also to downplay the ratio of FPM supporters in the demonstration, the reporter makes references to the religious affiliation of some of the people present, whilst also sneaking in a the following comment: Chants of “At your service [Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan] Nasrallah, at your service Aoun,” erupted soon after.

Some media outlets attempted to hide the size and scale of the protest by posting images that had been taken at the early stages before many protesters had arrived at the rally.

Online site Naharnet, run by Former Lebanese Forces Media advisor Nawfal Dow, downplayed the size of the protest by quoting that news agencies” Agence France-Presse and The Associated Press said “thousands” of protesters took part in the FPM rally”. The rest of the article wasn’t too bad by Naharnet standards with the site however leaving it to contributors to the comments section to express religious intolerance and make the usual claims of FPM irrelevance.

Considering the live television coverage of the event and the fact that the Lebanese people have eyes and ears, paid propaganda sites and newspapers found it difficult to downplay the significance of the FPM rally, and it is a certainty that they and will find it increasingly more difficult to attract paid clients for their media services in an information era dominated by live television and social media.

Robert Bekhazi 06/09/15

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