Tags Posts tagged with "billboard"


An order from the Beirut governor to enforce laws banning campaign posters in public spaces seems to have fallen on deaf ears.  In fact, it’s as if the candidates and their election operatives are now competing to show the governor how lawless they can be.

I have compiled just a few examples since the police seem to have missed all of these or have been on some sort of extended coffee break.

Let’s start with the most audacious.

1: Brazen: in one of the busiest intersections where police stand every day:


2: Double light post action: Is that worth two fines?


3: King of trees


4: King of the Corniche


5: 3D


6: Making it rain:


7: My face 1000 times:


8: Wall of shame:


9: King of the lighthouse:


10: King of the neighborhood:


11: On a wire:


12: Conquering abandoned buildings


13: “Spiderman”:


14: Dual action:


15: Chest hair appeal:


16: Refrigerator power:


17: Legal + illegal = Panorama


18: Cover-up


19: On government buildings?


Zoom in:


20: Every step you take…


At least one party (Beirut Madinati) is paying for legal advertising, despite the budgets of its billionaire competitors :


When your candidate runs an illegal campaign, what does it say about how they will govern you? If your candidate cannot follow the basic rules of elections, will they follow any rules once in power?

Of course it’s not just about posters. Some candidates have seized major streets using fake police sirens to stop traffic for their convoys. Other supporters, such as those in the campaign of Saad Hariri, fired hundreds of bullets in the air to intimidate their neighbors, in a clear violation of the law.

So if you are above the law before elections, how will you govern after? Wouldn’t it be great if illegal campaigns meant their candidates were illegal too?


The Lebanese police are celebrating their 153rd anniversary. At a commemoration event, the head of the force pledged officers would continue to serve all citizens and be ‘above’ sectarian and political divides.

But will they also be above the law? These banners thanking the police for their “service and sacrifice” were posted on the coastal highway, blocking major traffic signs. The banners are sponsored by local municipalities as indicated in small print below.

Yes being a police officer in Lebanon is not easy and many probably do work tirelessly, sweating profusely at intersections and enduring insults of thuggish citizens while trying to direct traffic. At the same time, there are also many accounts of torture and abuse. And many instances of flouting laws, such as blaring sirens for no reason but to get through traffic. The idea that municipalities can also flout the law to curry favor with the force (or other political parties) is a metaphor for the everyday lawlessness police so often either willingly tolerate or are too intimidated to crack down upon.


    Like many new towers going up in Beirut, Trillium sells its flats for millions of dollars. Does this mean only millionaires are “real men”?

    How does one become a millionaire in Lebanon anyway? The minimum wage is less than $500 and even college-educated young professionals make between $1,000-$2,000 month.

    Also what home does a “real woman” buy? Or do “real women” not buy homes? Does a real woman just wait for a man to give her one?

    This ad was for Valentine’s day. I can’t imagine what a ‘real man’ would buy her for Christmas.

    Source: Facebook
    As I tried to argue in my last post, there are many priorities in Lebanon, but the representation of women in the media is as important as any.   
    The billboard above was produced by Khoury Home, one of Lebanon’s biggest home appliance chains, on the occasion of Valentine’s day. It caused a stir on Facebook with many criticizing the firm for encouraging a gender stereotype: that women need to be thin. Not only does this alienate the entire overweight population, it also suggests that men can and should regulate women’s bodies to meet that ideal.  
    Instead of apologizing, Khoury Home completely ignored the critique, focusing instead on their product line. In response to the critics, they published the following post on Facebook:
    They also published these photos to illustrate that the campaign was not gender specific.
    Now if Khoury Home cannot tell the difference between the male and the female ad, I think they need to put their glasses on. Does the male ad suggest anything about his body or expected physical appearance?
    Perhaps the Khoury Home marketing team, or whatever agency came up with this, needs to spend some time thinking about the impact of their work.
    I highly recommend that the team watch this great–and very short— video by author and filmmaker Jean Kilborne:
    Khoury Home is not alone. The streets of and screens of Lebanon are laden with dehumanizing portraits of the female body. Check out this series of offensive ads by Beirut.com. Here are few, mixed with others I have documented: 
    Aishti campaign

    Aishti campaign


    Dormant for years, the digital “truth” ticker has been reactivated on the upper right of the Rafik Hariri billboard above. It has been marked as day 1 in line with the start of the long-awaited trial in the Hague today, investigating his assassination.

    The billboard had originally gone up shortly after the former prime minister’s murder in February 2005 and had read “The Truth.” The digital clock was soon added, with the aim of counting the days until Hariri’s killers were brought to justice. Years went by and the counting went into the thousands, prompting the somewhat embarrassing addition of a different size screen to compensate for additional zeros. A few years ago, the digital clock was removed altogether.

    Now the text on the billboard has been changed from “The Truth” to “Era of Justice.” It also appears that the original 3-digit screen has been replaced with a 4 digit one. Will it lead to anything this time? And can justice really be served in a state where most of the incumbent politicians are pardoned war criminals?

    That’s Saudia Arabia’s King Abdullah in Hamra traffic tonight. Ever since the monarch pledged $3 billion to arm Lebanon’s military, billboards thanking him have popped up all over Beirut.
    Near the port:
    In Clemenceau:

    And that’s him on the massive electronic billboard up ahead in Karantina, though it didn’t come out very well on my phone camera:

    These ads are also popping up in Nahr El Mawt, Martyr’s Square and all across the downtown area. But that’s just what I noticed during a normal commute so there are probably dozens more across the city and country.

    Now $3 billion is a lot of money and obviously it would be rude not to sound grateful. But who is being thanked here? Clearly the target of these ads is not the King or the Saudi people. By canvasing every nook and cranny of Beirut, the audience is obviously a local one. So is the king being thanked or are the people being told to thank the king? That sounds very Arab spring-like, doesn’t it?

    Finally, the blue strap at the bottom of the ad identifies ex-prime minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement, which is closely tied to Saudi Arabia, as the one paying for the ads. So this means the people being asked to thank not only the king, but also his local ally, a local ally at war with other well-armed local parties that get billions from other countries. So effectively what we have is a kind of arms race between foreign states inside Lebanon. Now is that something to be thankful about?

    The Kataeb party has been draping the highways in preparation for their annual event. The canvas reads: “Love Lebanon? Don’t Love Any Other”
    But if the Kataeb loves Lebanon so much, why have they covered the essential highway exit signs? Is promoting the party more important than public safety?
    Covering highway signs should be illegal, so what type of signal is the Kateab sending its supporters/foes? This is our highway and we can do whatever we want with it? Or the public’s right to driving safely and finding directions comes a distant second to self-promotion and propaganda?
    Then there is the message. “Don’t Love Any Other”
    What type of medieval rhetoric is that? Why would we not want to love others? This sounds like a very xenophobic discourse as pointed out by my friend Farah. Is the subtext hate Syria and the Syrians, hate Palestine and the Palestinians, she asks. 
    Like many Lebanese parties the Kataeb was inspired by rightist/fascist/ultra-nationalist parties of Spain and Italy so Farah’s questions are not without merit. Like Many Lebanese movements, the Kateab was a militia during the civil war, accused of mass atrocities. Yet thanks to the post war amnesty law, the Kataeb and its rivals now function as legitimate political parties.   

    The banners have been strung up over many overpasses along the coastal highway. This one says: “77 years in the service of Lebanon…”

    And here it is again, just a few hundred meters up the road:

    The Kateab is not alone. Virtually every party (former militia) in Lebanon is involved in laying siege to public space, including its rivals the FPM, The Lebanese Forces, The Future Movement, Amal, Hezbollah and the SSNP.   

    It would be interesting to know what type of “service” these parties have provided to Lebanon. Any tally should include the number of rounds of savage shelling launched at towns and villages during the civil war, innocents killed or paralyzed and property destroyed as a result of their shelling as well as the appropriation of public space, public institutions and other financial sectors in the post war period. 
    Judging by the way they treat highways, it may come as no surprise that most Lebanese political parties do not hold democratic elections and there’s close to zero transparency in their public proceedings.  


      No shirt required at this barber shop. But will the mysterious woman standing in the corner be there when I come? 

      The Lebanese Forces is really serious about promoting its new magazine Al Massira.  Not only has the party canvassed nearly every pedestrian bridge, rooftop and billboard along the highway: 

      They have also branded the highway itself:
      I’ve always wondered if the Lebanese Forces–or any other Lebanese parties– actually pay anyone for such ads. And it’s not just highways. The LF and others routinely hang their posters and flags on highway light posts, even employing sophisticated crane crews in the process. 
      Surely, such esteemed parties would not claim public space without a proper permit. I’m interested to see how “Al Massira” which promises to cover citizens’s everyday issues, will take on the everyday appropriation of public space. 

      Correction: Al Massira is not a new magazine per se; it is a re-launch as the publication, which began publishing in the 1980s, was shut down in the early post-war years. Thanks Leila


      Originally published in Bold Magazine

      By Habib Battah

      Not long after our new prime minister Tammam Salam took office, his posters immediately began to crop up around town, haphazardly strung across the highways from light posts or placed at the entrance of the airport road tunnel.

      The expected phrase, “We are with you great leader”  was printed above Salam’s smiling pose— one even featured an image of his father, Saeb Salam, who served as prime minister six terms. But why would canvassing Lebanese drivers matter when the prime minister is not elected by the public but appointed by his fellow parliamentarians, and the voting had already taken place?

      A similar curiosity surrounds a large billboard featuring incumbent President Michel Sleiman that went up in the East Beirut suburbs over recent weeks. The ad contains no text, just a grinning Sleiman flanked by a fluttering Lebanese flag. Again the president is not up for reelection and voting is done by members of parliament, not the public.

      What are Lebanese politicians telling us? That getting into office is not enough; that they also need to be cheered to do their job better, like a basketball player at the free throw line? And how does that work exactly? Do the politicians telepathically feel our good vibes when we believe in them; and if so, when has that ever materialized into benefits to citizens?  

      Even if such intangible support were to translate into results, what then should we make of the posters promoting politicians once they leave office? Take the recent plastering of Ashraf Rifi, the outgoing head of the internal security forces. When his term was not renewed, posters of a saluting Rifi automatically went up across his hometown of Tripoli, on billboards, buildings, roundabouts, even attached to road signs. Slogans read “You were with us and we will be with you,” and “Respect does not fade.”  Like the spots promoting the President and Prime Minister, it was not clear if the Rifi ads were rented from the municipality or simply a brash appropriation of public space.  

      The small print below a Rifi ad covering a pedestrian bridge north of Beirut suggested it had been sponsored by “the people of Ashrafieh.” Did neighborhood residents pass around a basket to pay for it?

      Less vague are the massive banners praising Energy Minister Gebran Bassil as “the cherished native son,” across highway overpasses in his hometown of Batroun. The text beneath one ad reads “The Municipality of Batroun.”

      So how did the municipality justify this allocation of public funds? Did it hold a referendum asking citizens if they wanted to pay for a campaign promoting a current member of government? Or did the municipal council unanimously assume that promoting Bassil would lead to favoritism toward the town or at least its council members?

      Perhaps it was this same unwritten quid-pro-quo formula that motivated the unexplained campaigns promoting the president, prime minister and outgoing security chief.

      Unlike the others though, Minister Bassil will most probably be running for a seat in Parliament in upcoming elections–if they are ever held. Having lost his bid for the hometown district both in 2005 and 2009, one assumes he has been trying hard to woo municipal board members ever since. And by the looks of the ads, whatever he has been doing seems to have worked.

      The Lebanese public are likely to see a lot more of Bassil and other faces smiling down at them along the roadways if the current dispute over election redistricting is ever resolved, and polls are held some time next year.

      Citizens should pay close attention to who is paying for those ads and where they are placed. Many will likely be erected illegally on public property, such as road signs, light posts and highway overpasses. Who are the men on the ground hanging these ads and who has provided them immunity to violate the law?

      Even when political spots are legitimately placed on billboards, some may be paid for by mysteriously vague organizations and others will not even bother to create a fictitious sponsor. Voters should pay particular attention to incumbent candidates and their ability to abuse the power of office and official channels to promote personal campaigns.

      Bassil himself is particularly proud of a crime-busting mobile application his ministry recently created called “Don’t hang it.” The app allows citizens to photograph and report the illegal hanging of power cables that can be used to syphon electricity off the national grid.

      Wouldn’t it be great if someone could come up with a similar app to report abuses of power in the political campaign process, particularly the hanging of illegal ads and their suspicious sponsorship agreements.