Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Lebanese Crisis and The Media

You sure have heard about what was going on in Lebanon, when the government there wanted to get rid of Hizbullah's communication system, and the Hizb's response by seizing control over the streets of Beirut and its airport. Anyway, I am not going to talk about the Lebanese crisis here, since thousands of articles were written about this subject everywhere here in the Middle East during the previous month. What I want to shed some lights on, is how the Media here dealt with this issue.

Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya News Channels

Let's face it, these two channels are considers the only two news channels in the region. Some people may follow channels like Al-Hurra, BBC-Arabia, Nile News, etc. But still Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya are the two major key players here.

They both have their own Web Sites as well, but for me, following Al-Arabiya's site is much easier than Al-Jazeera because of their News Feed service.

Let's first focus on Al-Arabiya. Al-Arabiys is owned by Saudi Businessmen, and as you know Al-Hariri family have strong relations with the Saudis. And that's why Al-Arabia was biased towards Saad Al-Hariri and the rest of "14th of March" coalition.
"In 1978 Hariri was made a citizen of Saudi Arabia by the Saudi royal family as a reward for the high quality of his entrepreneurial services, and became the kingdom's emissary to Lebanon", Wikipedia.
"After his father's assassination and the Cedar Revolution, Saad Hariri returned to Lebanon and took up his father's political path rallying behind him the biggest political movement in Lebanon. He ran for the Lebanese parliament on an anti-Syrian coalition, working for the sovereignty, independence and freedom of Lebanon as part of the 14 March coalition. Like his father before him and he favors negotiations to disarm Hezbullah, withdrawal of Israel's military forces from Shebaa Farms, and has become resistant to Syria's longstanding influence in Lebanon", Wikipedia.
Al-Arabiya's headlines during the crises were mainly against Hizbullah's. They sometimes portrayed the Hizb's act as a Coup D'etat in order to overthrow the legitimate government, they also focused much on Hizbullah's arm and how they pointed their weapons towards the civilians, and they forgot that the "14th of March" coalition do have their own guerillas and their weapons that were used during the crisis too. Some other times they portrayed it as a sectarian struggle between Shiites and Sunnis. As you know, Hizbullah is a Shiite party, and the Saudis always like to play the role of the Sunni elder brother who bare the responsibility of protecting the Sunni majority in the Arab world.

Al-Jazeera on the other hand know how to capture the hearts and minds of Arab viewers. They know that the more they attack USA and Israel and praise the resistance the more people will like them. So they tried their best not to be biased, in fact I felt their confusion, on one hand they know that the Arabic street is with the resistive and anti-Israel movements, but on the other hand the majority of the street are Sunnis, and this is sometimes enough reason for them to be against Hizbullah. But to some extent the way Al-Jazeera dealt with the Lebanese crisis was far more reasonable and somehow fair compared to Al-Arabiya.

The Egyptian Blogosphere.

The blogs are - at least for me - the second source of news and information beside the Satellite News Channels and Newspapers. And to some extent, I can divide those bloggers who wrote about the Lebanese issue into three main groups.

The Salafi/Wahabi Bloggers, those guys have two main reasons to be with the Hariri et. al. against Hizbullah. First of all, the Salafism/Wahabism is the product of the Saudi clerics and regime. In fact Saudia uses the religion most of the time as a way of Soft Power beside their Economical Power, thanks to the Saudi Oil. And they helped in spreading the Wahabi thoughts as a mean of shaping the minds hence the decisions of the peoples of their neighbouring countries. The wahabis also consider the Shiites infidels and they even consider them their major enemies and even more dangerous than Israel!

The Muslim Brotherhooders Bloggers, those guys like many other Sunni groups are subject to the Salafi effects, however as a political opposition movement, they sometimes consider Hizbllah as a role model for opposition and resistive movements. The MB's are also more pragmatic than the Salafis, and that's why they were with Hizbullah.

The third group is those Secular bloggers who were somehow divided into sub-groups. The pro-western pro-American ones were mainly with the Lebanese government, while the pro-resistive pan-Arabists were mainly with Hizbullah.

The Government-Owned Media

Finally, there is the government-owned media, such as Al-Ahram and Al-Akhbar newspapers and the Egyptian government-owned TV channels. In fact, we needn't to be that smart to know that the governmental media supported the Lebanese government and attacked the opposition, even before reading what they wrote. The government here have their own opposition parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood, and they have experience Strikes and Demonstrations few days before the Lebanese crisis, so they don't want the opposition parties in any of their neighbours to achieve any kind of success that may encourage the local opposition groups to follow their steps.

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