Lebanese media is in such a state these days that Lebanese TV channels are being ridiculed on social media as “Manar 1” and “Manar 2,” suggesting that their coverage of recent events is a poor copy of the Hezbollah Party affiliate Manar TV.
Most Lebanese media have united behind “war media,” the military media wing of Hezbollah, and have abandoned their investigative role to become full-time promotional and misinformation tools.
Even before the recent battle at Arsal on the Syrian border in northern Lebanon, access to the area was closed to the media except under conditions imposed by Hezbollah.
During the fighting, restrictions were doubled, and independent media coverage of events in Arsal is banned unless journalists are accompanied by Hezbollah and subject to its terms. Even when Hezbollah allowed a tour for Western media, they were not allowed to move freely “for security reasons,” and banned from conducting interviews with the displaced Syrians relocated under the deal between Hezbollah and the militants of Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham (JFS).
It is nothing new for Hezbollah to use audiovisual propaganda and exaggeration to try to mobilize public opinion and diminish criticism and independent thinking; their empty slogan is that patriotism flourishes in Lebanon under the name of “army, people and resistance,” which means the end of Lebanon as a state.
What is new is the submission by the media in Lebanon to Hezbollah’s logic. They have succumbed to the Hezbollah propaganda policy on the pretext that the party is facing terrorism and is preparing for the restoration of dialogue with the Assad regime in Syria, which the “war media” is trying to frame as a “partner” with Hezbollah in the fighting in Arsal.
Coverage of events in Arsal suggests that print and broadcast journalists have forgotten their investigative role and have become willing tools for Hezbollah’s self-serving propaganda.
The success of this propaganda and the compliance of the mainstream Lebanese media have contributed to the spread of a view that the Lebanese army has no role other than to support Hezbollah. News bulletins ignore the facts.
Everyone knows that sovereignty has been undermined and the army’s decisions are not freely made. The victory over the militants in Arsal had its beginning and end written by Hezbollah. The party was the initiator, the attacker and then the negotiator who sought to frame its image as a protector of the border and deterrent to terror with its ability to release its captives from JFS.
The role of the Lebanese army in the Arsal battle has been exaggerated and taken out of context. In reality, the army has so fair failed to obtain the release of its soldiers held by Daesh, which still has a presence in Ras Baalbek and Al-Qaa.
This is not only political short-sightedness, but misleading and cheap propaganda for a political situation imposed on us against our will.
• Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer. She can be reached on Twitter @dianamoukalled