BEIRUT: Two Lebanese guests on a political program scuffled late Friday over the crisis in Syria during a live broadcast on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television station.
The heated debate between Salem Zahrani, who heads a Lebanese media center and is known for his supportive stances for President Bashar Assad, and Asaad Bshara, who opposes the government in Damascus, almost turned violent during the program that was dedicated to the crisis in Syria.
The argument between the two culminated with Zahrani flinging two glasses at his opponent, prompting the host to intervene before the show was taken off air.
“Some people talk about Syria in a hypothetical manner just like your guest here who turns on Al-Arabiya [TV] and Al-Jazeera and reads a website [to get information on Syria] while I know Syria in person and that's why I can talk about it,” Zahrani said.
“What level of dialogue is this? You watch [Syria's pro-regime] Dunya Television and argue with me?” Bshara asked, pointing to the other guest.
Zahrani, who interrupted, defended the pro-regime Al-Dunya while accusing other Arab television stations of receiving foreign funding.
“Al-Dunya is more respectable than you are!” Zahrani said, adding: “At least it [Al-Dunya] doesn't receive funds from Israel, American and other embassies,” as Imad Mermel, the host of “Talk of the Hour” show, tried to end the argument.
“Keep up with this low level of dialogue,” Bshara responded, in a berated tone.
Zahrani then turned to accusing Bshara of collaborating with Israel and insulting the guest by calling him an “idiot.”
“Why don’t you keep your cooperation with Israel,” he said. Addressing the host of the show, Zahrani added: “I talk with international reports to back what I say while he [Bshara] sits there like an idiot not knowing how to speak.”
Bshara, who appeared agitated by the comments, in turn resorted to insulting his opponent.
"Eat s*-*!” Bshara said, prompting Zahrani to throw two glasses of water that were on the table at the Assad detractor.
The two continued to exchange insults before Al-Manar cut to commercials.
The press office of the Lebanese Forces deplored the incident Saturday and criticized what it said was “the media assault on journalist Asaad Bshara.”
"We want to take this opportunity of this unfortunate incident which has recurred on several television channels to affirm the importance of protecting media ethics by stations, programs and participants in televised political shows,” the LF office said in a statement.
The Association of Reporters Against Violence also criticized Zahrani’s behavior, accusing him of "only perfecting the language of insults."
It partly blamed the incident on Al-Manar's host and said he should have "silenced Zahrani and kicked him off the show.”
"The organization calls on Al-Manar to issue an apology to Bshara for the assault he suffered at the heart of the station while they should have just thanked him for agreeing to appear on their channel,” the association said in a statement.