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An Ordinary Matter for Hezbollah - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Commenting on the recent detention of the French delegate to the French Socialist Party, Karim Pakzad, in a southern suburb in Beirut for four hours, Hezbollah stated that the matter “would have passed normally” had it not been for the media making an issue of the incident. The party believes that those who stirred up the controversy harbour ill intentions towards the resistance.

Hezbollah is wrong to think that the detention of the French politician who was taking photographs in an area under Hezbollah’s control is an incident that could have passed without much fuss – and the paradox lies in causing uproar over this matter.

Ever since the end of the Lebanese civil war in 1990 and following Hezbollah’s armament under Syria’s patronage, all areas have become difficult for reporters and photographers to access without permission, regulations and security measures that are imposed by Hezbollah, which alone has the right to challenge and undertake practices in its strongholds.

Accounts of reporters and photographers who have been detained, subjected to investigation and whose equipment and videotapes have been confiscated by Hezbollah are countless to the extent that it has become a common media security practice in Lebanon.

The position of the press, which is subjected to interruptions and pursuit, vacillates between two sides: the desire to obtain journalistic material, which accordingly means taking into account the status quo and turning the blind eye to the reality that a party – not an official body – is capable of practicing such a high level of security control, or to reject and protest against it. The latter position is normally the prominent one amongst Western journalists who recount their experiences following their return to their states to prepare their material.

Ever since Hezbollah succeeded in extending its influence over the suburbs, the south and some of the local districts in the heart of Beirut, it has practiced strict and meticulous control over interviews, photographs and any media material leaving these areas. The party justifies such measures by saying that it is confronting “potential risks posed by the Israeli enemy,” as it claimed in its recent statements and as it always declares to justify its policies.

It is only natural that such strict security control has resulted in imposing images and positions that are carefully selected and ever changing so that many who live under this influence have come to practice self-censorship, and in many cases refrain from openly expressing what they want to say.

What led to the absence of effective journalistic coverage of a region that was plundered in 2006 required the establishment of a construction company to rebuild it (‘Waad’ company). And although the inhabitants of the southern district unanimously agree that reconstruction has yet to effectively begin; still, no questions have been asked about reconstruction.

The Lebanese media is incapable of obtaining information about the crisis in the suburbs because of the imposed media blockade, which has extended to include the inability to access or observe any movements in Hezbollah’s general surroundings.

The area is strictly off-limits to the media.

The recent incident involving the French Socialist delegate could have passed without much ado had the delegate not hailed from a prominent state. It is likely that dozens have been subjected to similar treatment without it causing any uproar or protest.

Perhaps this is what Hezbollah meant when it said that the incident would have been an ordinary matter had it not been for the malicious intentions.

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled is a prominent and well-respected TV journalist in the Arab world thanks to her phenomenal show Bil Ayn Al-Mojarada (By The Naked Eye), a series of documentaries on controversial areas and topics which airs on Lebanon's leading local and satelite channel, Future Television. Diana also is a veteran war correspondent, having covered both the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli "Grapes of Wrath" massacre in southern Lebanon. Ms. Moukalled has gained worldwide recognition and was named one of the most influential women in a special feature that ran in Time Magazine in 2004.

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