Local broadcaster LBC chose to air a split-screen live shot today of the Charlie Hebdo rally in Paris (left) and a a man hugging a coffin in Tripoli (right), where at least 9 were reportedly killed by a suicide attack at a cafe yesterday.

In both cases, the attackers are believed to be linked to armed militant groups fighting in Syria. In both cases, people going about their daily business were targeted. But in Paris, this is being framed as an attack on humanity and free speech. In Lebanon, it is viewed simply as part of the war next door. In Paris, a million people came out in support. In Beirut, the streets have been relatively quiet.

Why are the two attacks treated so differently? Are those sipping their coffee in Lebanon less important than the cartoonists in France? Where was the world media attention? Where was the analysis? Where were the pundits clamoring for freedom of speech? Why did they not also demand freedom of movement for the people of Tripoli, freedom to have coffee and conversation? Are these lesser freedoms?

Or is it only newsworthy when Muslims attack Christians and Jews? Is it not newsworthy when Muslims attack Muslims?

Finally, how is it that a news channel in a tiny country can spare some grief for an attack in a much larger country, yet so little reciprocal coverage was offered to the Lebanese people who faced a proportionally greater attack on the same day?

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Habib Battah
Habib Battah is an investigative journalist and founder of the news site Battah has covered Lebanon and the Middle East for over 15 years and teaches journalism and media studies at the American University of Beirut. He is a contributor to Monocle, The Guardian, BBC World, Al Jazeera and others, a former fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University and two-time recipient of the Samir Kassir Press Freedom Award. Battah's investigative work was recently recognized for outstanding local reporting by the Columbia University Oakes Award for Environmental Reporting. Battah earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and an M.A. in Near East Studies and Journalism from New York University.


  1. Good point, though, there might be a little bit of “This (that) is Lebanon” in play here. The world isn’t used to it happening in France.


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