2011-09-26 How an anti-Hezbollah newspaper spins WikiLeaks content

Aoun-wikileaks-hezbollah-lebanon-LBCI-Almustaqbal.JPGThe Lebanese daily newspaper Almustaqbal reported today that the head of Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) in Lebanon General Michel Aoun referred to Hezbollah as a ‘terrorist organisation’ in one of the Wikileaks cables (06Beirut413). Other media outlets reported the story referring to Almustaqbal, and one of them was Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (LBCI), where the author read this piece news (on their website).

Almustaqbal newspaper is owned by the business tycoon, Hezbollah’s political opponent and Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. If this is true, it will be a blow to the current alliance that exists between Michel Aoun and Hezbollah. This alliance has been the corner stone of what’s known as ‘March 8’ camp in the Lebanese politics, which is basically a pro-Hezbollah alliance. Hariri is the leader of ‘March 14’ camp, which is an anti-Hezbollah alliance.

Hezbollah is a main player in Lebanese politics, and has a main regional dimension too. It represents a fore front extension of the alliance between Syria, Iran on the Lebanese borders which stands up to Israel. Going back to the subject cable 06Beirut413 and the story in Almustaqbal. The author actually read this cable before Almustaqbal, and soon after its release. The author decided then NOT to write about it, as he didn’t find anything unusual or already not available in the public domain.

This is one case where journalists take some cables out of their context to serve their political inclinations and objectives. Almustaqbal missed the point that American Ambassadors or the cables’ authors sometimes refer to Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation as a matter of principle and a style of reporting. Moreover, the cable doesn’t quote Aoun at all saying the term ‘terrorist organisation’, rather it comes in the context of referring to Hezbollah in a report from an embassy to its base.

This is a quotation from the cable, where the term ‘terrorist organisation’ was mentioned – appearing in 3 locations:

“When asked to explain the tortured language of Article 10, which appears to give open-ended license to Hizballah to retain its militia, Aoun argued just the opposite, saying the terrorist organization could keep its arms “only if national consensus allowed it.[…]The Ambassador reminded Aoun that just as Lebanon was finding its voice to question the rationale for Hizballah’s state-within-a-state status, the communique had done a good job of taking the wind out of everyone’s sails and given the terrorist organization an undeserved gift.[…]Even though the document represented “only a start,” Aoun said he was convinced that the terrorist organization eventually wanted to come in from the cold. In support of his theory, Aoun noted that the document even referred to Israel, not “Occupied Palestine.”

As you can see, the term ‘terrorist organisation’ was not placed in quotations all. On the contrary, this cable emphasizes Aoun’s position in reference to the ‘understanding’ or communique signed with Hezbollah, as he defends his move, which is totally opposite to what Almustaqbal tried to imply in its report.

Please dispute in the below comments section, if you interpret the above text in a different way. But the author thinks Almustaqbal misreported the cable, whether intentionally or by mistake.

The author initially believed LBCI were non-professional for not validating the cable content, but they were brave to correct their mistake. They responded to his complaint on twitter this morning saying they had looked into it, and agreed that Almustaqbal report was wrong…They said that the article was mere translation from the Arabic press without editing.

LBCI looking into the issue:

LBCI confirming Aoun didn’t call Hezbollah a terrorist organisation:

LBCI explaining that how the info appeared on their website – just a translation

LBCI thanking the author!

LBCI removed the article on their website

This post appeared in a slightly modified version to suit on Lebanon Spring Blog