In journalism school, there are debates about what a reporter can ethically accept from a source. Gifts and even lunch are usually strictly forbidden, but there are arguments about whether coffee or biscuits can be justified.
But what if your host bakes you a cake? 
That’s exactly what happened on the latest episode of the leading LBC interview show, Kalam Ennas (Word of the People). The host Marcel Ghanem (top left) was interviewing Lebanon’s leading priest cardinal Beshara Rai (right) who baked a little something for the cast and production crew:
Not only was it a cake, but a cake with LBC’s name on it:

The pictures above were tweeted by the show to get viewers tuned in ahead of the broadcast. But what could viewers really expect from such an interview?
Why interview the top priest anyway? Is he going to provide answers to the pressing problems the Lebanese people face? The broken roads, the lawlessness on the highways where hundreds are killed every year by reckless accidents? The lack of jobs, electricity, water or affordable telephone bills or internet, to name a few?
I wonder sometimes why the show is called “Word of the People” when almost every one of its guests is an elite political operative, feudal landholder, millionaire businessman or all three in one– which is often the case.
Why is it that such a small group of often meritless individuals or unelected religious leaders have so much power over Lebanese politics? I would venture that a big part of their power/relevance comes from the media, i.e. if these people weren’t on TV every day, would we even care what they had to say? Would they be so ‘important’?
Here is how Kalam Ennas promoted the interview with Rai, on it’s Twitter page: 

One of the main reasons for this show was the upcoming presidential election and since “tradition” says the president should be Christian, the church is thought to have an “important” role in determining who this man (it’s never a woman) will be.
But why is that? Why must Lebanon’s president be Christian? Article 12 in the Lebanese constitution says: 

“Every Lebanese has the right to hold public office, no preference being made except on merit and competence…” 

This question was put to the show by my colleague, journalist Leila Hatoum:

@habib_b @hanibathish @Marcel_Ghanem بحسب الدستور اي شخص بغض النظر عن دينه او طائفته يمكن ان يكون رئيسا.التقليد العرف هو السبب بتدين المناصب
— Leila Hatoum (@Leila1H) March 25, 2014

And by my colleague, journalist Hani Bathish:

@habib_b ask why a President has to be Maronite, and why he has to be ‘approved’ by his sect rather than by all the Lebanese people
— Hani Bathish (@hanibathish) March 25, 2014

But neither received a response as far as I can tell. And yet the interview with Rai went on for a whopping two hours! You can watch it here, if you have that much time to spare!

I’m not sure how that time was filled, since the only headline to come out of the interview in The Daily Star was: “Rai Parliament must get going with Presidential vote

Breaking news, huh? Seriously, were there any tough questions about Lebanon’s ridiculously inefficient, feudalistic and corrupt political system asked during this interview?  Unless the marathon broadcast was not meant to inform, just to propagate that autocratic good old boys club with smiles and… cakes?

Again I really don’t have two hours to spare, so if someone does or has seen it, please let me know if I missed something here.

  1. Maybe my own info is not correct, but as far as I know and according to the constitution (Taef accord) the President is now by LAW a Maronite (not just Christian).
    The irony is that to be a candidate for a MP post you need to pay 10 Million Liras, for the presidency you pay nothing.

  2. Interesting Tarek; do you know where it says that in the constitution? Wouldn’t it contravene article 12? I could update the post if you have any references.

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