Tonight, major Arab networks are leading their nightly news bulletins with grainy cell phone footage of angry crowds, gunfire and bloody bodies carried through the streets of Syria on stretchers (above). But those events were not very newsworthy for Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV, which buried the story toward the end of its newscast for the second day in a row:

Instead of giving voice to people on the street– as it has done just about everywhere else in the Arab world– Al Manar is now parroting the regime line, favoring sanitized state television coverage over footage sent by citizen journalists risking their lives to shoot the story. Notice Syria TV logo on top left:

And while Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, BBC and others noted up to 20 had been shot dead by security forces Al Manar repeatedly failed to mention the word “killed” in its reporting, saying only some people had been “wounded”, without mention who was doing the “wounding” in question.

The same was true of NBN TV, another pro-regime station in Lebanon, which repeatedly ignored casualty figures and steered clear of mentioning any role by state security agents in the violence. Instead NBN said Israel conspired by sending “100,000” SMS text messages to encourage the uprising.

On the other hand, both Al Manar and NBN have spearheaded the battle against Arab dictators over recent months. They both carried Al Jazeera’s signal live from Tahrir square when it was blocked by Egyptian authorities. They have both created on-air promos supporting the people on the street from Tunis to Bahrain. NBN in particular has been airing a Gaddafi hate video, in which the Libyan leader is shown soaked in blood, striking a Hitchcockesque pose:

Even tonight, Al Manar went out on a limb for the Jordanian opposition, allowing dissidents in that country to speak freely on its airwaves, demanding justice from the ruling powers.

So what made it in to Hezbollah TV’s headlines tonight? The election of a new Maronite Christian priest to the post of Lebanese Cardinal:

Top members of Hezbollah attended the service:

And where else but in Lebanon do Islamists go to Church? But I digress…

While freedom of expression is spreading rapidly throughout the region, viewers need be wary. Some TV outlets calling for change may indeed be doing so out of conviction, but they may also be looking to divert attention away from their own dirty laundry.

Of course this applies to both sides. Pro-USA leaning, Al Arabiya is now calling for the downfall of Gaddafi, but last month, they offered nothing short of propaganda for Mubarak.

  1. “New Maronite Cardinal”

    Technically, Patriarch, not Cardinal.

    (The head of the Maronite church is a Patriarch. The previous Patriarch was also a Cardinal, having been appointed to that position by I think Pope John Paul II. The current one is not a Cardinal. Cardinal is not an administrative position; Cardinals’ sole formal power in the church is to choose the next Pope when the previous one dies. I used to know this stuff for a living.)

    None of which detracts from the rest of the post. Nice roundup.

  2. Thanks Tom. I refrained from using Patriarch because I thought people outside Lebanon wouldn’t know what it meant–didn’t know they were not one and the same. So technically, the Pope could elect someone other than the new Patriarch as next Cardinal? Then when does he elect someone, if you know?

  3. Hey Habib, the former patriarch, Sfeir, for example was patriarch (head of the church in Lebanon) for many years before being promoted to Cardinal during a ceremony at the Vatican. Nice update. Thanks.

  4. Habib – there are a bit more than 100 Cardinals total throughout the Catholic Church – it’s mainly an honorific that says “this guy has been around for a while and is a Big Cheese”. There’s nothing that says the Maronite Patriarch automatically gets to be a Cardinal, but I expect the new one will be eventually because it’s a fairly influential position within the larger church.

  5. True, Cardinal is mainly an honory title. However, it becomes quite important, as soon as a Pope dies.

    The Cardinals elect the new Pope – and in most cases, I think in all cases in the last few centuries, they elect one from among them.

    I think most people that are somewhat familar with the “eastern churches” actually should know the title “Patriarch”… at least I kinda hope they do 😉

  6. All those mentioned above, as well as (Not that I am surprised)

    CNN as well.. Their headlines keep reading “Syria Unrest” but there is absolutely nothing about Bahrain when so much is going on over there.

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