Hazem Al Amin

Al-Jadeed TV

On the eve of Wednesday June 27, I decided to watch the news bulletin on Al-Jadeed TV, since the station was a victim on that day after young men who are not affiliated with the Amal Movement tried to burn it down. I said to myself that watching the Al-Jadeed news bulletin would be something of an expression of solidarity with the TV station.

Strangely enough, I was unable to understand a single word of the bulletin preamble that night. The station was reluctant to demonstrate solidarity with itself and confused about reporting the “popular” reactions to the arrest of those who tried to take it by storm and burn it to the ground.

In a manner that people of medium intelligence – like myself – were unable to comprehend, the presenter of the news bulletin moved to speaking of Syria and concluded the preamble with this expression: “… Burhan Ghalioun infiltrated the Syrian scene under the guise of clans knowing that he had lived his life under the guise of the opposition until the [Syrian] National Council dismissed him from its presidency.”

My average intelligence did not allow me to understand what the station meant by saying “he had lived his life under the guise of the opposition.” I reckoned, at first, that the Al-Jadeed TV newsroom was in possession of information whereby Burhan Ghalioun secretly supported the Syrian regime and was hiding under the cloak of the opposition. I later discarded that possibility and labeled the expression as part of the meaningless political rhetoric. In other words, the person who wrote the preamble of the news bulletin used empty words that left the meaning open to all interpretations, as is often the case in Lebanon.

However, my perplexity with regard to the preamble of the Al-Jadeed TV news bulletin took me to the situation of the station and its status on the Lebanese political landscape. Al-Jadeed TV inherited its name and the building housing it from the Lebanese Communist Party, which had established it in the early 1990s before its ownership totally went to Tahsin Khayyat, a businessman who decided to delve into the media experience. It seems that among many things that are remnants of its Communist past, the station inherited a certain kind of “masochism”, which had always characterized the Communist Party’s relation with allies that did not think twice about flogging it.

In truth, the fact that a businessman owns a TV station in Lebanon could have been unique had it not been for the lure exerted by politics on the owner. Khayyat did not enter the media world from the gateway of politics, but he still chose to position his station on the divided political scene. At the same time, he sought to draw away or closer to politics by making use of the knowledge that his ownership of Al-Jadeed TV and his investment in it is not directly linked to any of the political forces towards whom the station is biased. In between the narrow media space separating Al-Jadeed TV from its political allies, the station was punished by the very people whom it supports, as they would accept nothing short of full commitment to their instructions.

On one given day, Syrian general Rustom Ghazali lashed out against the station and on another recent occasion, the Syrian army opened fired towards a Al-Jadeed TV crew, killing a fellow journalist. Today, it is targeted by people who are not affiliated with the Amal Movement and Hezbollah, thus putting the station once again in a state of confusion vis-à-vis its community.

Nevertheless, the owner of the station is undoubtedly courageous, as he went into a direct confrontation with Rustom Ghazali at a time when no one else dared to do so. Even if he reverted to being biased towards those who flogged his station a few days after the death of one of its journalists in Akkar, he still adamantly asserted that the man was shot dead by the Syrian army.

The preamble of the news bulletin was lost somewhere in between the clear political stance adopted by Al-Jadeed TV, the courage of its owner and the fact that it is not owned by any Lebanese political party. The station thought that it could host a rude opponent of Hezbollah with impunity and was almost burnt to the ground. Before this incident, it had thought that it could prepare a report on the tragic situation of Syrian refugees against a backdrop of a general stance that supports the Syrian regime, and its reporter was killed as a result.

The details pertaining to its story with Rustom Ghazali have yet to emerge, but one thing remains certain: at the time, the station was not pitted in a confrontation with the Syrian regime.

Part of the station’s inheritance from its Communist past is its status as part of the opposition. As developments came in succession in Lebanon, it moved to a pro-government stance but was never able to recant the opposition rhetoric. It thus became a pro-government station using opposition rhetoric. Today, it has become a victim of this equation when it hosted Ahmad Asir in his capacity as a March 14 scandal, but it did not heed the fact that this does not abide by the logic of partiality, as people who are not affiliated with March 8 forces tried to torch its headquarters.

Tahsin Khayyat is a courageous journalist, hence this tribute to Al-Jadeed TV on the day it came under attack.

This article is a translation of the original, which appeared on the NOW Arabic site on Friday June 29, 2012