Photo editing: the license of the Lebanese press

Lebanon has a vibrant media scene, but as has been said before on this blog, propaganda too often penetrates what passes for acceptable journalism. Most disturbing is that Lebanese media organizations justify editorializing their pages as a rebuttal to other media outlets doing the same thing, i.e. ‘if they use propaganda than we have an obligation to counter it.’

It’s a vicious cycle and its taking on ever more subtle approaches, such as picture editing. Take these recent examples from Naharnet, a website affiliated with the An Nahar newspaper, one of Lebanon’s oldest and most prominent publications. I have written about Naharnet before here. It leans toward the pro-Western voices in the country.

Here is a picture that went with a story last week about Walid Jumblat, who is part of the pro-US March 14 movement.

And the close up:

Now here’s a picture that went with a story about Michel Aoun, the Hezbollah-allied leader:

And close up:

From a journalistic point of view, it’s really amazing that Naharnet could run the Jumblat picture as a news-related item when it is nothing more than a political propaganda poster. In it, we see Jumblat superimposed over a large crowd of supporters, emphasizing the populist narrative that has been claimed by the March 14 movement. This compares to the image of Aoun, who is potrayed as angry and unreasonable.

Of course Naharnet is just one of many Lebanese broadcasters and publications that habitually slip in their own points of view to color the story. We have seen this regularly in Future TV and Al Manar, which represent both ends of the pro-, anti- Western perspective, and both claiming to voice the true opinion of the people. Ironically, neither side seems willing to trust its own viewers to make decisions objectively, free from graphics and selective manipulation.

  1. it’s shameful really.
    lebanese pride themselves with having a free media in a region where such a thing is tantamount to treason. but unfortunately it is becoming more so a propaganda machine rather than fair and balanced (reminds me of FOX). i’m not so sure we want FOX’s fair and balanced prototype either. maybe something in between?

  2. As a matter of fact, Naharnet is not affiliated with the actual Annahar.

    Its is independent, and run by non-other than PSP’s Marwan Hmede.

  3. Hi Anon, interesting comment. I’m wondering what the source of your information is?

    According to a recent media conference held by the US Embassy in Beirut, Bassam Tueni is the CEO of a company that owns the Naharnet and he is also a senior executive at the An-Nahar Group, founded by Gebrane Tueni.

    Here is his bio according to the U.S. Embassy site

    “Bassam Tueni is a senior executive at the An-Nahar Group, a leading Arab media group founded in 1933 by Gebrane Tuéni. An-Nahar newspaper quickly became a leading Arab reference and a promoter of the freedom of the press under very challenging circumstances. Tueni is also CEO of Tele Nahar S.A.R.L., owner of the portal, a major Arab portal with 3.5 million annual unique visitors from 130 countries and owner of PowerMe Mobile S.A.L, leading provider of SMS and MMS content and mobile solutions in the Middle East. Tueni is a Board member of WAN, the World association of Newspapers.

    Previously, Bassam Tueni was Vice President of Finance of the Olayan Group, a Saudi Arabian conglomerate. Tueni received his bachelor’s degree from American University of Beirut and his ACA from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales.”

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