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From a nondescript residential block in downtown Beirut, Jean Kassir and his journalistic collective – Megaphone – are producing some of the most dynamic journalism of Lebanon’s five-month uprising.
In a media landscape dominated by partisan journalism, Megaphone has become a trusted source for its critical take on the news and slick content that has outmatched its more established rivals.
“The majority of our team are volunteers. Many come to work with us after they have finished their day shift,” Kassir told The Listening Post’s Tariq Nafi. “The revolution was a major turning point. We used to produce two videos a month; during the first month of the revolution, we started producing two or three videos a day. Some on the team would work daily from noon until three or four in the morning. It is something I think we will never again experience in our lives.”
The uprising has brought together a cross-section of Lebanese society in a revolt against a political system defined by sectarian identity, which has failed to provide even the most basic services.
It has also revealed much about the shortcomings of Lebanon’s media outlets – too many of which are skewing their coverage – since they are split along the same lines as politicians.
“Given that the media is, by and large, run by politicians, political parties or businessmen with political ambitions, they have of course played a very important role in helping the elite reshape themselves,” journalist Kareem Chehayeb told us. “They’ve done so by trying to rebrand a lot of these politicians as reformists who have been obstructed by their political rivals.”
In Lebanon, just 12 families – most of them directly involved in politics – control close to 50 percent of the media. The remaining 50 percent of outlets are run by political parties or the state.
With so many media outlets so compromised by their ownership, journalism that confronts Lebanon’s ruling elite is more necessary than ever.
“It is very difficult for one to think about political change, without a fundamental change to people’s source of information,” says Kassir. “When journalism confronts and challenges the various official narratives put forward by the sects or the parties or the factions, then we can actually change the rules of the game in this country. So it is not a detail – the media is a fundamental pillar in this process, whose role is to deconstruct a regime that has lasted too long and cost the country too much.”
Jean Kassir – Managing Editor, Megaphone
Jamal Saleh – Creative Director, Megaphone
Kareem Chehayeb – Co-founder, The Public Source
Jad Abou Jaoudeh – Head of News, OTV