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Television: Between Saddam and Hossam? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Last Monday, our eyes were mesmerized by events on our television screens as we followed the progress of the former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s trial in Baghdad as he instructed the judge to order his handcuffs be removed. Everyone thought that the trial’s proceedings would be the most exciting, new, and iconic image on that day.

Soon, however, the testimony of an eyewitness from Dujail, recorded before his death, was superimposed by the statements of another in an entirely different case…

Hossam Hossam, a Syrian intelligence figure, otherwise known as the masked witness for the information he holds on the assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, appeared on every television screen. Terrestrial and satellite stations broadcasted his list of names, tales, and events where reality and fantasy freely intertwined. Did the Syrian regime really violate the terms of investigation?

This remains to be seen. What is certain, however, is the media circus that emerged from the testimony. Syrian officials, analysts and the media praised Hossam’s statements as a sweeping victory in the face of international pressure on Damascus. Amid the excitement of the regime and its spokesmen, it was evidently clear that the media and journalists have become an integral part of news-making.

Before being publicly adopted by the Syrian regime and its state-media, Hossam tried to tell his story on Lebanese television… His testimony was largely based on the alleged intervention of a Lebanese journalist who brought him to the team of international investigators. In his numerous television appearances, Hossam indicated he had seen several journalists at the commission’s headquarters. He didn’t even shy away from revealing he had encountered the journalist May Chidiac at the Monteverde Hotel, despite the fact that she remains in hospital recovering from serious injuries!

Hossam has fired a number of bullets against the media and through it…Everyone has now become an expert at the game with the media at the heart of this fixture.

Syria invited the cameras before it accepted the investigation team… this is a case of transparency for the sake of confusion.

In the meantime, television cameras are engaged in a race to interview Hossam and discover the truth behind his involvement which has confused matters even more.

It appears naïve to ask whether the media is able to protect itself from political, religious and social exploitation. The answer is, of course, negative, especially as the Arab media is not independent and is funded by politicians, businessmen and governments. Recalling the media’s achievements does not relieve it from striving for true independence. Yet, in the current state of affairs, such talk appears comical.

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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