(My Middle East)

77 days with a journalist, Lebanon, and a list of non sequiturs

Archive for the ‘Lebanon news’ Category

2 Stories: Lebanon Drug Addiction | Foreign Influence

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I had a story in The Daily Star today about an NGO, Skoun, that helps treat drug addicts and lobbies the government for more treatment and less jail time for addicts. NGOs really fill a huge gap in civil society. I’ve covered events by about a dozen so far and its really interesting to see how prevalent they are. One one hand its a good thing to provide all these services, but on the other it makes people dependent on other countries organizations and individual donors besides the state.
My story in the paper yesterday was on a UNDP report with a section on foreign influence in Lebanon. It was some of the harshest language that I’ve read about the foreign patronage, and especially suprising coming from the UN. Unfortunately it didn’t have a newspeg, but hey you gata fill the paper I guess.

The foreign influence really gets understated, particularly by people with an agenda. You hear people talk about the “Western backed” March 14 coalition (like in my story, not my choice) but really that should read something like “Saudi backed” because of the  hundreds of millions of dollars the Saudis possibly used to leverage the campaign. But as usual the truth can’t be summed up into one or two words. Parties that joined either March 8 and 14 had diverse reasons for doing so that reflect local, national, regional and global pressures that are difficult to encapsulate in a phrase.

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July 18, 2009 at 6:18 pm

To be an Italian MP you have to have a really deep voice

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I figured out that I don’t speak Italian yesterday. I covered a press conference from the Italian foreign affairs delegation to Lebanon Thursday The press conference was in Italian and Arabic so I had to pretend like I was writing things down and then take the recording back to be translated.

Highlights of the press conference:

All 3 (out of 4) of the Italian MPs who spoke had incredibly deep voices. Like wildly deep. Octaves bellow what I was expecting, even the woman MP. Maybe its a requirement before running for political office in Italy.

Opposition MP, Leoluca Orlando, handing out an entire two sided personal biography instead of a business card.

Wondering if my name would have been Stefano Stefani if I had been born in Italy.

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July 10, 2009 at 5:26 pm

Story on politicized journalism in Lebanon

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Reporters at the first day of the AFP workshop

Reporters at the first day of the AFP workshop | Lana Captan Ghandour

_ I had a story today in The Daily Star on the politicized Journalism in Lebanon and AFP workshops to promote objectivity.

Of all the countries in the Middle East Lebanon has one of the most free media environments. It’s notoriously weak government can hardly keep the country stable let alone have time to censor journalism. In Reporters without Borders press freedom index Lebanon is beat only by Cyprus for press freedoms in the Middle East, also check out the U.S. ranking of 36. (Although it should also be noted that the situation hasn’t always been that way, anti-Syrian occupation journalists have been intimidated and killed in the past and during war times internal journalism was very difficult)

Despite the current free press ranking the media in Lebanon is firecly political and exacerbates the already unstable poliotical scene. The Agence France Presse and UNDP is holding workshops that has reporters from opposite political spectrum working together to promote objectivity, which was the news peg to my story.

The conference itself was very cool, there were journalists from the Hezbollah TV station Al-Manar working with journalists from Saad Hariri’s Future TV and LBC. People had really intense debates about journalism but got along really well despite that. I talked to people from Al-Manar LBC and even a reporter from a Lebanese Communist owned radio station called Sawt al-Shab (voice of the people), it was great to see such different people getting along so well.

Oh and a major plus was the workshop was ran by Robert Holloway who is director of the AFP Foundation. Holloway is also a pretty big deal as an international correspondent. Also running the workshop was Najib Ben Cherif from Al Arabia, Saad Hattar from BBC radio Jordan and Joseph Badaoui from AFP Cyprus.

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July 8, 2009 at 12:50 pm

Story on Lebanon’s failed state ranking

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I have a story in The Daily Star today on Lebanon’s recent ranking as the 29th most failed state in the world, an improvement on last years rankings.

Be sure to read the article explaing the index before looking at all of the rankings from Foreign Policy and the Fund for Peace. 

The Foreign Policy articles accompanying index are worth checking out too. My favorite was the one on green zones in the failed states.

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July 2, 2009 at 11:55 am

Nonsense in the News

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I’d say about 60-70 percent of whats published in newspapers in Lebanon is politician or prominent figure quote stories. Things like Geagea said this or Aoun said that (speaking of which, Qifa Nabki sites two sources that say around 50 percent of Chrsitians are still down with Aoun ) Anyways of that 60-70 percent almost all of it is garbage that tells you absolutely nothing like this headline from An-Nahar :

Sources close to PM-designate Saad Hariri told An-Nahar yesterday evening that Hariri is “calmly completing the process of forming the government.”

Really An-Nahar? I’m so glad you told me that. And I’m really happy you used an anonymous source to tell me the PM is calmly completing government formation, I’m now so well informed. It’s a real shame. Stories like these don’t tell you anything, quotes make up over 70 percent of the story and it avoids the real journalism work that should be done.

Almost all the time the quotes are positive things like “the government formation is going well” “all guns are almost off the street” there should be no fighting”. People literally take quotes like that and turn them into front page huge headline stories. BUT, after sifting through dozens of these useless stories every day, there were two that did catch my eye.

Sfeir says ‘nothing going well’ in Lebanon

“Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir was pessimistic on Tuesday about the overall political situation in Lebanon. Sfeir told a delegation of residents from the Chouf town of Brih, that the Lebanese were “currently facing a difficult period.” “Nothing is going well,” he added”

and this one

General Michel Aoun: we don’t know who’s forming the cabinet anymore

“We no longer know who is forming the government amidst all of the diplomatic visits and the clear interventions (Syria-US-France)”

Positive quotes never tell you much, and those have been almost all of these quote stories since the election. But the fact that people are deviating from the reconciliation line in addition to the recent clashes, could be a sign this government formation is headed for rough waters.

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July 1, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Story on Aisha Bakkar

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As I mentioned yesterday in my post about reporting from Aisha Bakkar, where street clashes broke out Sunday, heres my story that ran in The Daily Star today. It was my first story of this kind (conflict reporting directly after the conflict) so it was a bit of a struggle to write, but I think it turned out alright and I’ve figured out what I can do in the future. Heres the main story on Aisha Bakkar by Nicholas Kimbrell that my story was the sider to.

<UPDATE> 9:02 PM Beirut, Went by Aisha Bakkar on my way home from work. The whole area is still on lock down, but a little more relaxed, people and LAF wise. Although I did see a few checkpoints where LAF were stopping and searching cars and talking to people.

I heard the Sunni side had a funeral today for the woman killed, and when I walked through the area there was a group of about 100 people who were having a group meal, I’d assume as part of the funeral. So maybe things can go forward with out retaliatory violence

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June 30, 2009 at 9:37 am

Déjà vu

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Check out this story from the LF of a similar occurrence of Amal fighting Jamaa Islamiya (a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood) in the  Aisha Bakkar,the same neighborhood as Sunday’s clashes but in 2008. It makes this claim “…they asked for help from al-Jamaa al-Islamia…,” in NOW Lebanon’s otherwise generally poor, heavily slanted article, based on hearsay an interesting one.

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June 29, 2009 at 11:41 pm