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Breaking news: bombing in Beirut.

Breaking news: an explosive device targets a Lebanese figure.

Breaking news: clashes on the streets of Beirut.

The viewers of Lebanese and Arab satellite channels have become accustomed to programs being interrupted by breaking news reports and the news ticker that informs viewers of a new explosion in Lebanon and that somebody has been assassinated.

The breaking news is immediately followed by live images of smoke, corpses, coffins and statements that are overwhelmed by feelings of mobilization.

After a few days, the scene then changes to images of people crying and funerals being held for victims who were politicians, members of parliament, reporters and security men. And nobody knows who the next victim will be.

In Lebanon itself, the news ticker is no longer the first indicator of a dangerous security event; the disconnecting of mobile phone services is a warning for everyone to rush to the nearest television screen to find out which figure has been targeted this time or in which part of Beirut clashes have erupted.

The decrease in the level of traffic has also become a worrying factor that indicates that an event is about to take place in a district or street, allowing passers-by to quickly return to their homes to take shelter.

Since the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, 14 February 2005, events have succeeded one another in an intense manner to the extent that the images portrayed of the assassination of General François al Hajj did not differ greatly to the images of the assassination of Captain Wissam Eid, a member of the Internal Security Forces.

The image of the explosion itself is frequently repeated and the media is no longer able to portray the difference between one explosion and another, especially considering the failure of reporters to play a role in differentiating one event from another.

Sentiments reach their peak within the targeted person, the reporter and the ordinary citizen whose paths cross at the moment of the explosion. Here reporters fail to indicate the political significance of the explosion, so the bloody image of smoke and severed limbs, which frequently creep onto our television screens, is predominant.

This is a point of failure whereby new data, which we need to know in order to differentiate between one event and another and between an explosion and some other security-related incident, is not produced.

Television channels set up their cameras, send their correspondents and transmit the facts…

Transmitting facts is a necessity; however, it comes with a price.

There is an image being developed about the country that everybody agrees is on the verge of falling into an abyss if not already…

Time separates between one explosion and another. Clashes on the streets do not take place everyday but in this respect, there is always exaggeration. However, when an explosion takes place, all previous bombings are remembered as if they have occurred in succession, which in truth is incorrect. But the frequency of such incidents causes viewers to see the same news item over and over again with only the location and identity of the targeted person changing.

What is taking place in Lebanon is not difficult to understand and those who are playing with Lebanese lives are not unknown as some suggest. However, the frequency of such image is no longer giving the [journalistic] profession its right. Therefore, we should think about what is beyond the transmission of this image. Perhaps that was difficult in light of the absence of data and information even for security bodies, however, the profession requires providing the viewer with more than merely what he/she has seen before.

A prompt suggestion would be insufficient; we should carefully contemplate what lies beyond the image of the explosion.

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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