Storm over Al Jazeera anchor’s post mocking Hurricane Irma victims

Screengrab showing Ahmed Mansour's controversial post on Facebook on Sunday.
Updated 11 September 2017

Storm over Al Jazeera anchor’s post mocking Hurricane Irma victims

JEDDAH: Social media erupted with criticism over the weekend after a well-known Al Jazeera Arabic presenter mocked US citizens fleeing Hurricane Irma, justifying the destruction as a “display of God’s greatness which many dare to deny.”

Ahmed Mansour, an Egyptian journalist for the Qatar-based TV network, on Saturday posted a photo showing a jammed highway as hundreds of thousands fled the deadly hurricane.

A similar post on Facebook contained the Qur’anic verse, “And He will show you His signs, and what signs of Allah will you deny?”

This brought an onslaught of criticism by social media users angry at Mansour’s suggestion that the hurricane was some kind of "divine punishment."

Some viewed Mansour’s comments as hate speech, while others accused him of twisting the Qur’anic verse to suit his own agenda.

A Facebook user residing in Miami, Florida, responded to Mansour, reminding the journalist that if his post “contained some kind of hatred or gloating against non-Muslims, do not forget that many Muslims actually live in Florida.”

Another commentator pointed out the double standard in Mansour’s discourse: “Back in 2015 when a crane fell on pilgrims in Makkah causing (more than a hundred) deaths, or when (many more) died in the stampede the same year, you called that a ‘test’ from God and a ‘technical’ issue.”
 




Ahmed Mansour faced fierce criticism for his insensitive tweets. He deleted them without offering an apology. 

“How is this any different?” demands the man, adding that Mansour’s comments show grave “hypocrisy and unprofessionalism.”

Mansour posted another update to Facebook, with a video showing airplanes leaving an airport in Florida, captioned with the same Qur’anic verse.

In the wake of the uproar over social media, the news anchor deleted the posts.

Abdellatif El-Menawy, the well-known Egyptian media analyst, denounced Mansour for mocking Americans during a time of natural calamity.

“To suggest that Americans fleeing Hurricane Irma is divine punishment is atrocious, inhuman, insensitive and unprofessional,” El-Menawy told Arab News from Cairo. “This is simply unacceptable.”

El-Menawy questioned the convoluted point Mansour was making, and the logical extension of it.

“Does he think what is happening in Myanmar is divine punishment? Do the Muslims in Myanmar deserve what is happening to them? This is despicable on Mansour’s part. He shouldn’t have said what he said,” said El-Menawy.

Mansour made matters worse by simply deleting the tweet without explanation, El-Menawy added.

“If he has an iota of respect for himself and for his profession, he should apologize for his remarks,” said El-Menawy.

“By deleting the tweet, he has only tried to hide his feelings because of the negative reaction.

“He failed in his duty as a professional (journalist).”

Facebook and Twitter representatives did not immediately respond when asked by Arab News whether Mansour’s comments marked a violation of the services' terms of use. Al Jazeera spokespeople did not respond to a request for comment.


Lebanese news agency boycotts politicians’ press conferences, including Hezbollah’s Nasrallah

Updated 07 August 2020

Lebanese news agency boycotts politicians’ press conferences, including Hezbollah’s Nasrallah

  • The Lebanese news agency LBCI has said it will no longer provide coverage of any politician’s press conference, including Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah
  • “Let your accomplishments speak for you and don’t distract people with storytelling,” an LBCI presenter said

LONDON: The Lebanese news agency LBCI has said it will no longer provide coverage of any politician’s press conference, including Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, following Tuesday’s massive explosions.

“The Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International decided that what comes after Aug. 4 is not like what came before,” a presenter announced on live television on Friday.

“Because after the earthquake is not the same as before, because your (Lebanese government) neglect and failure is one of the main reasons for what we have come to ... because after Aug. 4, we need actions and not words, achievements and not speeches.

“Let your accomplishments speak for you and don’t distract people with storytelling,” she said.

“Finally, we tell people: While you are waiting for the speeches of your leaders, there are mothers who are waiting for the return of their children from the rubble — the priority is for them, not for you.”

Many Lebanese welcomed LBCI’s announcement, with several taking to social media to praise the move — especially given that Nasrallah spoke at a press conference at 5:30 p.m. local time, his first address since the blasts.

“Not only Nasrallah, but all speeches, by all parties. They are nothing more than propaganda. They own their own propaganda bullhorns, so let them use those to address their sheep, rather than block the airwaves for the rest of us,” Raghda Azad, a policy adviser, told Arab News.

“Not that LBC is a model or anything, but all television outlets should stop unquestioning and uncritical reports of so-called leaders,” she added.

However, some doubt the move will not be followed by other stations.

“I think it would be great if they all do. But I think because many people care what he says, stations feel like they should oblige,” Aya Chamseddine, a Beirut-based researcher, told Arab News.

“Generally, people tend to — even if they loathe him — root themselves in front of TVs to watch and listen. His speeches are theatrics above all,” she said. “His narrative will be predictable. He will say they know more than anyone what it means to lose people. He’ll be insulting.”

A Lebanese media expert, who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, disagrees with the move.

“CNN, even when it hates (US President) Trump, carries his speeches. Nasrallah is the biggest political player in the region; when he speaks people would want to listen because of his effect on politics and our daily lives,” he said.

“The issue is analyzing what he says later, and tearing it apart when it is false or stupid, like CNN does after every Trump speech or statement.”

The boycott comes three days after Beirut was rocked by two blasts when 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate confiscated six years ago and left in a port storage hangar exploded.

The massive explosions left at least 140 people dead, over 5,000 injured and more than 300,000 homeless. Many say that government corruption and negligence are behind the explosion.