Lebanon and the sectarian garbage crisis – The Listening Post (Feature)

Lebanon’s media is crowded, diverse and highly politicised. Last year’s protests over the rubbish crisis is a case in point. It’s a story of how a deeply divided media fractured the consensus on a civic issue – and the activists who are pushing for alternative narratives ever since.

These media institutions are an extension to the political status quo. It would be naïve to think that any movement, will not be attacked by this media.

Jad Melki, associate professor of journalism and media studies, American University Beirut

Where democracy is concerned, Lebanese media enjoys more liberties than many other countries in the region. However, the problem lies elsewhere – the politics.

The intricate network of corporate, political and sectarian strings attached to each and every channel complicates the reporting of everything. National politics and religious groups and sects are how the media is dictated in this instance.

“If you think of a puzzle and think of Lebanon as this puzzle with each piece representing a different religious sect and with each piece also having a few patrons, a few political groups that dominate it. It also is reflected in the media,” says Jad Melki, associate professor of journalism and media studies at the Lebanese American University.

But what could be the sectarian view on reporting the garbage crisis?

“What happened was really interesting because a few media outlets that weren’t really directly owned by political parties started to cover the protests, and these protests were really a confrontation with Lebanese political power,” says Habib Battah, editor at online news and current affairs site The Beirut Report. “They were not really picking sides and picking favourites, but actually attacking the entire political establishment in the country. And that really wasn’t convenient for most TV channels to cover because each one kinda wants to cover something that makes their politician, their owner look good and no one’s looking good here.”

Talking us through the story are: Karma Khayat, vice chairwoman, Al Jadeed TV; Nabil Dajani, professor of communication and media studies, American University Beirut; Jad Melki, associate professor of journalism and media studies, Lebanese American University; and Habib Battah, editor, BeirutReport.com

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