BEIRUT: Caretaker Information Minister Walid Daouk has ordered that a warning be issued to a prominent political talk show anchor – media figure Marcel Ghanem – accused of inciting sectarian sentiments. However, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati came out Monday in support of the alleged offender Ghanem, saying that he had not been informed of Daouk’s decision to issue the warning.
Daouk instructed the head of the National Audio Visual Council Abdel-Hadi Mahfouz to “send a warning immediately to [Marcel Ghanem] the producer and host of the Kalam al-Nass political talk show broadcast on LBCI TV for inciting ... the public to disrupt the civil peace and the stability in its Aug. 23 episode.”
On the day of the broadcast, twin car bombs ripped through two separate mosques in the city of Tripoli following Friday prayers, killing at least 47 people and wounding hundreds.
“The pictures of charred bodies which were broadcasted in the episode in question were photos taken in Morocco in 2011,” Daouk said in his memo.
Daouk requested that the Council “send the warning immediately, for breaching the conditions of the license granted to the television station.”
Following the episode and the stir caused by the photographs on social media, the program Saturday issued a statement on its website, saying: “Dr. Ahmad Ayoubi, who was our guest in last night’s episode, is the source of these pictures about the explosions in Tripoli and the victims. Host Marcel Ghanem mentioned during the episode the source of the photos, and therefore the program holds no responsibility for them.”
Ghanem, who told The Daily Star Tuesday he was drafting a long response to Daouk’s measures, could not be reached in the evening. As The Daily Star went to press, no statements had emerged from Ghanem or LBCI.
Mikati issued a statement in which he voiced his support for Ghanem and “expressed his appreciation for the role of LBCI in approaching national issues in a professional manner, especially in the [latest episode of ‘Kalam al-Nass’ on Aug. 24] which summed up all the anguish of the Lebanese.”
One day after the controversial Aug. 23 episode which many believed was laden with inflammatory interventions and controversial guests, Ghanem – Lebanon’s most popular talk show presenter – hosted on Aug. 24 some of the victims of the Tripoli bombings and the explosion earlier this month in the Beirut suburb of Ruwaiss.
Mikati “called on media outlets to practice their mission with the necessary wisdom and awareness during the current period,” and expressed his appreciation for “the role of the journalist Marcel Ghanem, who tackled political, humanitarian and national issues with professionalism.”
He also emphasized that he “was not informed of the measures” taken by the Information minister “against Ghanem and his program.”
Lebanese television stations have been widely criticized by experts and on social media outlets for inflammatory and exaggerated coverage of recent security incidents.
During the Aug. 23 episode, Ghanem hosted several March 14 and March 8 politicians and journalists who traded barbs.
The guest list included Future bloc MP Samir al-Jisr, caretaker Economy Minister Nicholas Nahas, Kataeb MP Samer Saadeh and Future Party official Moustafa Alloush.
Journalists Ali Hamadeh, Salem Zahran and Faisal Abdel-Sater along with Tripoli figure Ahmad al-Ayoubi and Salafist Sheikh Omar Bakri Fostoq were also among the guests.
Several media figures came out in support of Ghanem, labeling the Information minister’s decision unfair.
“I am against the warnings the Information Ministry issues against journalists,” Mariam al-Bassam the editor-in-chief of Al-Jadeed TV’s news bulletin wrote on her Twitter account. “We [journalists] are the voice of the people.”