Canadian Media Distorting Events in Lebanon
Tadamon! (http://tadamon.resist.ca/index.php) is concerned with the way in which Canadian media are portraying current events in Lebanon.
We encourage all who share these concerns to respond to inaccuracies and distortions in coverage of the crisis.
The following tools are available to help you respond:
- Media analysis: Distortions/Reality
- Contact details for main media outlets
==> MEDIA ANALYSIS. People Power in Lebanon: The Truth behind the Fog of Spin
One of the largest peaceful mass movements in the Middle East is currently taking place in Lebanon. Unfortunately, Canadians are getting a distorted picture of what is going on through ill-informed, biased, and sometimes outright misleading, reporting of the facts. This is not about which side you take in this crisis. It is about your right to know the truth and about the right of the Lebanese people to protest their government’s actions and to democratically choose another one. Our government has taken a strong stand in support of the Lebanese government. It is time Canadians know the facts about the struggle to hold their government accountable for such a stand. The following are distortions being propagated through some of our mainstream media outlets and the corresponding realities behind them.
Distortion: This is a Hezbollah protest.
Reality: The opposition is a coalition of over ten parties from all sects, ideological leanings, and regions of Lebanon. Hezbollah, and its Shiite ally Amal, are the dominant force, but they are joined by the Free Patriotic Movement, a secular party with a mainly Christian base that has 14 seats in Parliament (Hezbollah also has 14 seats). Other parties include a group of Sunni coalitions, the Lebanese Communist Party, the secular leftist People’s Movement, as well as Druze and other Christian-based movements.
Distortion: This is an attempted coup to "topple" the democratically elected government.
Reality: The only tanks sitting outside the government building are those of the Lebanese army, under government command, and are there pitted along barbed wire against unarmed protestors. Delegations in the hundreds wishing to express solidarity with the government visit the building on an almost daily basis. All calls for the protests have stressed the peaceful nature of the rally. The opposition has repeatedly called for a “national unity government”, in which two-thirds of members are from the current ruling coalition and only one-third from the opposition coalition. This is hardly a plan to seize power through a coup d'etat.
Distortion: These protests are a big threat to stability and the economy.
Reality: There are hundreds of thousands of bombs lying across the fields of Southern Lebanon, the legacy of the Israeli war on Lebanon this past summer. These bombs continue to kill and maim civilians of all ages and disrupt the farming of these fields, a main source of income for tens of thousands of people. Meanwhile, outgoing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan reported this month that daily mock raids are carried out by Israel over Lebanese skies, in some cases reaching up to 14 raids a day. This is the major threat to stability and the economy of Lebanon. Mass movements inevitably cause disturbance to the economy and stability, but they are in the first place a response to government policies that are doing far greater damage to both stability and the economy.
Distortion: This action is a Hezbollah-controlled move to take over the country and create a religious state.
Reality: Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has gone on record saying that Hezbollah is willing to relinquish its seats in a future national unity government to its allies as long as all Lebanese factions are represented in the newly-formed government. The claim that the goal is to create a religious state, oddly suggested by the Globe and Mail (Editorial 7/12/06), could not be seriously made within Lebanon. It is never even suggested by Hezbollah's staunchest political enemies in Lebanon.
Distortion: The protestors are pawns of Syria and Iran, attempting to re-introduce Syrian interference and enforce the Iranian one.
Reality: Syria and Iran do wield influence in Lebanon, but to suggest that hundreds of thousands of citizens have taken to the streets for over a week to serve the interests of foreign countries is insulting to those people and cannot be taken seriously. And if it can be said that Syria and Iran influence the decisions of the opposition coalition, it can also be said that American and western interests, as well as the interests of their allies in the region (Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt) influence the decisions of the ruling coalition. U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman meets on a regular basis with government officials and frequently makes press statements about internal affairs in Lebanon. The German and French governments sent delegations to support the ruling coalition during the first week of the sit-in. Irwin Cotler from the Canadian Parliament met with Siniora just two weeks ago.
Distortion: This is a sectarian conflict between Shiites and Sunnis.
Reality: This is a political conflict. Out of the four main speakers at the mass rally over the past week, only two were Shiites. They included two Sunni figures, and a religious authority who led joint prayers between participating Sunnis and Shiites. Two prominent former prime ministers and leaders in the Sunni community, Salim al Hoss and Omar Karami, are part of the anti-government coalition. There is no denying that tensions between Sunnis and Shiites are strongly present and being fomented in the current crisis, with the majority of Sunnis siding with the government or neither party and the majority of Shiites siding with the opposition. But the basic issues are political ones.
Distortion: The protests are designed to prevent the establishment of an international tribunal to investigate the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Reality: All opposition parties have expressed on record, sometimes ad nauseum, their support for establishing such a tribunal. The government refused to grant these parties the time to review the details of the privileges and mandate of the proposed tribunal, which is a basic protection against manipulation of such a sensitive and important tribunal by foreign powers. The move to ratify the order to establish the tribunal without proper consultation sparked the resignation of opposition Ministers from the Cabinet and led to the current situation.
==> CONTACTS FOR ENGLISH PRINT MEDIA
* Note, most newspapers require that you include your name, city, and a telephone number where they can reach you to verify authenticity of the letter.
Globe and Mail, letters@GlobeAndMail.ca
National Post, firstname.lastname@example.org
Financial Post, email@example.com
Montreal Gazette, firstname.lastname@example.org
Toronto Star, email@example.com
Ottawa Citizen, firstname.lastname@example.org