Monday, May 12, 2008

First they came for....

Mtv logo sprayed on a wall in Ashrafieh where their headquarters were

(Protests after closing of MTV)

I shall begin this post with the poem "First They Came for the Jews" by Pastor Martin First Nienmoller:
"First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionist sand I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me."

I say this because, last Friday, Future Television was forced to close down. So in defence of "the other opinion" we must all stand up against this closure. Hussein Wajh - news director in Future TV said this in almost blunt words on the popular "Kalam al Nass" talk show on the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) with Marcel Ghanem. He implied that first it was Future TV and then other stations would follow.... This is how the events unfolded ccording to AFP:

Supporters of Hezbollah forced the shutdown of a pro-government television station in West Beirut on Friday, circling the building in the Hamra district and threatening to take it over.
“Armed gunmen surrounded the building, stormed into the garage and demanded through the army the shutdown of the station,” the head of Future News, Nadim Moulla, told AFP. “We decided to place the matter in the hands of the army.”

Right after the killing of PM Rafic Hariri (Who owns Future television) I have collaborated with them on a series of four clips to revive downtown Beirut. The idea behind the TV clips was a direct spinoff from the "You don't need it but downtown does" campaign that was launched in 2001 by the NY municipality to revive downtown NY after September 11. Back then, Future was the guardian of the vibrant image of a man who was bigger than life (But apparently smaller than death - as they later treated him).

Minister of information Ghazi Aridi was quick to react. In the Now Lebanon website is the following article:

Information Minister Ghazi Aridi underlined the need to preserve the freedom of the press in Lebanon in all circumstances.
“For days, we have been fighting to protect photographers and reporters covering the events in Lebanon, some of whom were subjected to attacks by elements of various political forces in a number of Lebanese areas,” he said.
“Today, we stand before a heavy attack on media freedom in lebanon,” Aridi said after Hezbollah supporters invaded and burned the offices of Future Television, Future International and the Al-Mustaqbal daily, all backed by Future Movement chief MP Saad Hariri.
Aridi called on all political forces in Lebanon to protect the freedom of opinion of individual journalists and media organizations. He urged Hezbollah to stop “such acts” and make room for the Lebanese army to protect the press.
“Lebanon cannot live without its freedom of information, which must be protected,” he added.
The minister called on all media institutions to stand in solidarity with the freedom of the press and of individual journalists.

So first... They came for Future TV, right?




First they came for MTV - not the Music Television but the Murr TV.

According to the yearly report of 2002, “In September, Lebanese security forces closed the offices of Murr Television (MTV) and Radio Mount Lebanon, owned by Christian opposition Parliament member Gabriel Murr. Armed security forces roughed up staff and ordered them to leave the offices. The Publications Court accused the stations of violating a law that prohibits airing propaganda during elections, which were held in June. Some observers suspect that the closure was partly triggered by MTV’s criticism of the Lebanese government and of Syria—which posts some 20,000 troops in Lebanon and plays a significant role in the country’s politics. Right before the June poll, prosecutors had accused the station of harming Lebanon’s ties with Syria through its coverage. During the elections, station staff claimed that they were prohibited from covering the poll because they work for MTV. Both outlets remained closed at year’s end."

Not only did MTV remain closed till the end of the year, but remains so till today.

Now the gimmick is this:

Who signed the decree of the close of MTV?

A person by the name of Ghazi Aridi who was then Minister of Information. Yes, the same one lamenting now the closure of Future TV. With one small difference, back then he was not in the same political coalition as the owner of that station.

Who was PM when MTV was closed?
One person by the name of Rafic Hariri. Yes, the same one who owns Future TV.

If there is anything as bad Karma in TV land, then what goes around comes around, and necessarily what went around in MTV is now coming back to haunt Future TV.

First they came for Future TV?
No, first YOU came for MTV. Then they came for YOU, and there was no one left to speak.


Salem said...

Sure, but calling it bad Karma is being really, really nice. Hypocrisy is the word, and it just does not convey the whole idea. I wish the English language has a more powerful word because Aridi took Hypocrisy to a whole new level. At least IMhO.

And now they're back on air.
Don't get me wrong on this, I'm all for free speech; if you can't believe for freedom of expression even for people you despise, you don't believe in it at all. But the real problem (not just with FTV) is the material they air and the propagandist character assassination they perform quite professionally.

The whole media landscape in Lebanon is dangerously corrupt and professionally misleading. They no longer deserve to be called media outlets and the simple value of "freedom of expression" does not apply to such cesspools of mass indoctrination.

I say forget about "freedom of speech", close all of them for a while for the sake of "freedom of sanity".

Unknown said...

Hey T!
Excellent! Wonderfully well written.
I loved it. And the pungent sting of irony and a dose of sprinkled sarcasm in the whole post.
I loved the way you just cornered the whole.
Very subtle.
Chapeau bas.

adiamondinsunlight said...

Tarek, great post. I'm glad that Future is back on air (although I wish it would tone down the vitriol, or at least stop running the same "no comment", "you are the witness" and "Tayyar Mustaqbal militia" promos). But as the saying goes, "what's good for the goose is good for the gander". Or perhaps even better: "you reap what you sow".

MTV was one of the channels I watched regularly when I lived in Damascus in the summer of 2002. I was shocked when I learned that it had been forced off air, and the ostensible reason.

Two wrongs don't make a right, but I'm glad you pointed out that the same man now celebrating press freedom did something very different six years ago.