How Has a TV Station Fire Inflamed Tensions in Lebanon?

Published May 11th, 2017 - 06:00 GMT
Screenshot of CCTV video purporting to show the arson attack on Al-Jadeed (Twitter)
Screenshot of CCTV video purporting to show the arson attack on Al-Jadeed (Twitter)

It seems that Lebanese channel Al Jadeed just cannot catch a break after allegedly having been attacked for the fourth time in 6 months. 

A van belonging to the privately owned broadcaster was set on fire in the early hours of Thursday morning, according to reports in local media.

The station, which is pro-Hezbollah, has accused the Amal movement political party of being behind the attacks. While both parties draw support from Lebanon's Shia community, and are politically aligned, it is not uncommon for them to clash.

While the Daily Star reports that security forces are still attempting to discover what started the fire, Al Jadeed has released CCTV footage apparently showing the perpetrators.

Scenes from the moment of the assault on Al-Jadeed channel #SolidarityWithAlJadeed

Karma Khayat, Al-Jadeed's deputy chief editor, reportedly claimed that “members affiliated to Berri {Nabih, Amal leader and speaker of parliament] attacked the channel.”

“Even if they want to assault or attack us, we have a message and we will deliver it,” Khayat added.

In February, angry demonstrators, some of whom were waving Amal flags, attacked the Al-Jadeed headquarters after the channel broadcast a sketch allegedly mocking Amal founder, the missing cleric Musa al-Sadr.

However, Amal leader Berri’s press office have denied the allegations, saying that "Khayat approached us with fabrications and lies, which [will] no longer fool anyone.”

Opinion was equally divided on social media, with rival hashtags “in solidarity with Al Jadeed” and “Al Jadeed are liars” revealing apparent divisions within Lebanese society.

Many expressed their support for the Amal movement and claimed that the accusations against it were false.

Amal movement is the crown on your heads.

The fan was broken and they burned [the van] so that the insurance would pay…. Tahseen [Khayat, the owner] you have eaten the insurance money!

A broken fan with insurance… Tahseen burned it in order to benefit from the insurance, and he comes out wailing and accusing the [Amal] movement.

Meanwhile, many came out in defense of media freedom.

Whatever your opinion is… attacking media freedom is unacceptable.

Shame on you - or in other words, I spit on those who make themselves out to be journalists… you don’t have to show solidarity, but at least shut up.

What is happening with Al-Jadeed is a travesty, but the greater calamity is that people are encouraging [the attackers] and are standing with the attackers.

The Lebanese Interior and Information Ministers visited the studio on Thursday, as well as the owner of private TV station LBCI, according to the Daily Star.

Berri’s press office has announced that the Amal leader will be taking legal action against Khayat and Al-Jadeed for what it calls their “false accusations.”

This article has been updated to provide further details about the incident, 12/05/17.

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