How Iranian, Qatari media glorified Qassem Soleimani

Hasan Nasrallah delivers a speech to the supporters of Hezbollah in Lebanon to commemorate the death of Qassem Soleimani. (AFP)
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Updated 07 January 2020

How Iranian, Qatari media glorified Qassem Soleimani

  • Soleimani has been portrayed as a martyr despite his crimes
  • Qatar-based media did not report on the drone being launched from there

DUBAI: It was not at all surprising, following the successful US strike that killed the commander of the Quds brigade Qassem Soleimani, that the Iranian media would attempt to ease the big blow to the regime in Tehran by portraying the late Soleimani as a “martyr” - who actually always wanted to be killed to gain this alleged honor. 

This was reinforced by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah reiterating that Soleimani always wanted to be killed on the battle field.

Nasrallah told mourners on Sunday: “On Thursday evening, January 2, 2020, Qassem Soleimani, the dear beloved brother, fulfilled his biggest and most wanted dream… it has been his dream since he was a youth who joined the Iranian battle grounds, and he continued holding that dream and that goal.

Meanwhile, the official website of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei published a photo illustration showing Soleimani in an embrace with a figure alluding to be Imam Hussain ibn Ali.

Another Iranian newspaper, Resalat, published an illustration depicting Soleimani being greeted in Heaven by Imam Hussain and Aytollah Khomeini.

In response to the image, many Americans and pro-Trump supporters on social media circulated an illustration of Jesus embracing US President Donald Trump - in what seemed to end a Twitter tug-of-war of who actually owns Heaven. 

However, it wasn’t only non-Muslims who believed Soleimani was not exactly Heaven material. Many Muslim intellectuals, social media influences and columnists condemned Soleimani for the turmoil the militias he commanded brought upon the region. 

His crimes included the leading, arming and training of mainly Shiite militia groups, as well as launching wars directly or indirectly via these proxies.

He also fomented unrest in other nations to advance Iran’s ideological and hegemonic interests, while attacking and invading cities and countries; and assassinating foreign political figures and powerful Iranian dissidents worldwide. 
However, the Iranian media started manipulating the truth as soon as Soleimani was killed. Iraqis celebrating on the street were portrayed as condemning America by Iranian media.

As Saudi Arabia, regional powers and world leaders called for the easing of tensions in the aftermath of the attack, pro-Iranian media was propagating the opposite. 

Iranian-backed Lebanese broadcaster Al-Mayadeen, which is affiliated with Hezbollah, began to use the hashtag #الرد_الحتمي meaning “inevitable retaliation” on its digital platforms.

The director of the Beirut-based channel Ghassan bin Jiddo even portrayed Soleimani as a “martyr”, saying the channel had received an image of him dying with a Quran in his hand, despite having been killed in rocket attack that burned the vehicle he was in. 

Jiddo also described Soleimani as a “brave leader” and also falsely claimed that Israel – alongside the US – was behind the attack. 

“It is well known that some groups that hold an ideology inconsistent with logic have resorted to the absence of awareness of illogical ideas.  Such groups aim mainly to plunge their members into irrational thoughts for the purpose of facilitating their leadership. If we apply that rule to what the Al-Mayadeen channel and other propaganda tools of the Iranian regime mention, we will find it fully applicable to them,” Egyptian multimedia journalist Abdelatif Menawy said. 

“The main goal is to drown people into delusion and sorcery and give them narcotic media materials so that they cannot reasonably think. Logical thinking will push people to change,” Menawy added. 

Like Al-Maydeen, the Hezbollah affiliated Al-Manar channel have also been referring to the criminal general as a “martyr” – a rhetoric pro-Iranian media has been attempting to spin since the general’s death.

Al-Manaer, which had its channel banned from YouTube, also published a video report that portrayed Soleimani as a “martyr.” The channel also published a video report showing Soleimani saying he wished to become a martyr. 

In a piece printed in the Tehran Times on the day of Soleimani’s death, Syed Zafar Mehdi wrote that “last year the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei wished martyrdom for his brave soldier” and that wish came true on Friday. 

Like other international media organizations, Al-Jazeera was also one of the publications following the developments of the attack closely. On the day of Soleimani’s death, Al-Jazeera reported on the “popularity” of the general in Iran and failed to mention his history of crimes in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.   

Additionally, when it was revealed that the US had launched the attack from Qatar, the Doha-funded channel failed to report this, on both their English or Arabic platforms. 

Jamal Rayyan, an Al-Jazeera anchor, Tweeted claiming the attack was launched from the UAE and not Qatar. Rayyan also went on to claim that Israel had carried out the attack through Trump. 

Other Qatar-affiliated media, including the London based The New Arab, referred to Soleimani in their reports as a “welcomed hero” during his funeral in Iran. The New Arab also published a bio on the general, but failed to include any of his crimes. 

Facebook Journalism Project and ICFJ launch fund to support Lebanon’s news industry

Updated 13 August 2020

Facebook Journalism Project and ICFJ launch fund to support Lebanon’s news industry

  • The new program will support local media outlets

The Facebook Journalism Project, in collaboration with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), has announced that it will invest $300,000 in a program that aims to support the stabilization and recovery needs of journalists and news organizations in Lebanon affected by the Beirut explosion.

The new program called “Supporting Beirut: Response and Recovery Fund” will assist in supporting local media outlets that have suffered damage to infrastructure and resources.

ICFJ and Facebook will award $150,000 in emergency relief funds to Beirut-based news organizations and journalists directly impacted by the blast and in need of urgent financial support.

The first phase of this program will involve identifying Lebanese news organizations and journalists who require financial support. These journalists and news organizations will then be able to apply for immediate emergency relief grants. ICFJ will award grants to select Beirut-based news organizations and journalists who meet a set criteria.

“Our hearts go out to the people of Lebanon and everyone affected by this immeasurable tragedy,” said Mohamed Omar, news partnerships manager, Middle East and North Africa, at Facebook. “We’ve been getting regular updates from our contacts in Beirut; the damage to the city’s infrastructure, including its many newsrooms, is enormous. In spite of these devastating circumstances, the news industry is working hard, under extraordinary conditions, to keep people informed and updated,” he said.

“We applaud their efforts and are continuously working with our partners to both understand their needs and support them the best we can,” he added.

ICFJ, a non-profit organization focused on raising the quality of journalism worldwide, will mobilize its local networks to implement a two-phase response and recovery initiative for the Beirut crisis.

Sharon Moshavi, ICFJ’s senior vice president for new initiatives, said: “People turn to local journalists for critical information on how to keep their friends, families and communities safe. As the impact of the devastating explosion continues to unfold in Beirut, ICFJ is prepared to work with the Facebook Journalism Project to provide tailored support to Lebanese journalists and news organizations that are providing critical information to a nation in crisis.”

The Facebook Journalism Project and ICFJ will offer additional, deeper support to select Beirut-based news organizations during phase two, depending on the longer-term impacts of the crisis.

Earlier this week, Facebook announced that it would donate more than $2.1 million to local hospitals, medical institutions and NGOs to support relief and recovery efforts, $1 million of which has been matched by its community as part of a Facebook fundraiser.