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On December 7, the leftist independent daily As-Safir carried the following piece by Bumidyan al-Sahili: “Al-Manar television station carried, within its main newscast on Tuesday evening last week, a report about a strike in Al-Hirmil in a manner that was not on a par with the scale of the events that took place there during the strike, especially what happened at the city's town hall.

“Al-Manar relies on many photographers and correspondents to cover Al-Hirmil district, which is something everyone is grateful for in a city where Hezbollah is considered a major political and electoral power. However, what the citizen of Al-Hirmil knows about the interest of the Al-Manar station in covering the city's news worked against the channel this time round, when the viewer was taken by surprise by the scope, area, and method of coverage by this television channel, which is considered a Hezbollah channel, of a report on the strike by the school transport drivers in last Tuesday's newscast and its repercussions.

“The truth of the matter is that last Tuesday in Al-Hirmil, school transport drivers went on a strike. The main objective of the strike was to protest against the bad conditions of the main and side roads, which have been destroyed due to the works by the company working on Al-Hirmil's water pipes and network because it has not paved the areas it dug up over five months ago.

“This company has not even filled the roads it dug up with earth or levelled them out temporarily to guarantee the safety of passers-by and their rights, particularly since they have suffered great losses as a result of the damage caused to their cars, despite the repeated promises that were made by the company's management for over two months in the presence of the Al-Hirmil district and municipal head, which have been totally ignored. Furthermore, no one has paid any attention to the legal measures the legislator noted with regard to these cases against the aforementioned company in order to protect public rights.

“The concerned ministry did not even have the decency to address the problem. This demand was the main subject of dialogue with the Al-Hirmil municipality head during the meeting between him and representatives of the strike.

“A short while before the municipality meeting took place, scores of students and protestors stormed the ground floor of the Al-Hirmil town hall, chanting slogans condemning the services and the development policies of the municipality and accusing the members of failure and of bargaining with the rights of the people. They were prevented from storming the second floor after the intervention of some well-meaning people.

“What is known is that Al-Manar has the highest percentage of daily television viewers in Al-Hirmil district. These viewers were waiting to watch many reports on this and other problems. The party's media official in the Al-Biqa Governorate had promised during a Ramadan iftar banquet that he would present this difficult problem and other problems that cannot be mentioned here.

“The viewers were hoping to see footage from a camera that was going round the streets and alleyways of Al-Hirmil, filming the daily ordeal of their transport and listening to their complaints about this problem, as well as the opinions of those involved in the matter regarding their follow-up on this issue so that it is not just simply added to the scores of other problems. The viewers were hoping to have their eyes soak up reports on this matter by seeing a minister resign or a hardworking deputy show up demanding that this situation be handled.

“They ended up watching an abridged news item. As for the footage, all it consisted of was an image of the exchange of messages between the municipal head and the contractor. So, was Al-Manar's choice of coverage an attempt to clear the reputation of the municipality, which is considered to be on its side of the divide, with regard to what is happening?

“Was the fact that Al-Manar did not send a camera to film the situation an attempt to "keep things quiet" in order to stop the gloating of outsiders, at a time when the head of the municipality found it sufficient to make promises to deal with the situation during his meeting with the delegation of drivers on the second floor, while his deputy shut the door to his office and did not open it until after the protesters had left? And finally, is a media blackout the message from the media?” - As-Safir, Lebanon


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