I debated whether to write about this issue or not for the better part of the last few hours, but the response by Lebanese media to the Istanbul attacks, especially with regards to the Lebanese who fell victim to them, is disgusting and horrifying and should not be accepted any day longer or repeated in any way in any coverage in 2017.
In a terrorist attack on a night club in Istanbul, an abomination of a human being dressed as Santa opened fire and killed 39 people, injuring more than 60 others. Of those 100 people, around 13 are Lebanese as per initial estimates. Of those Lebanese, three have been confirmed to have passed away so far: Elias Wardini, Rita Chami and Haykal Moussallem.
Lebanon’s three victims were visiting Istanbul, like many Lebanese, thinking it was a safe place for them ring in the new year. They were there with friends, loved ones, hoping for the last moments of 2016 and the first of 2017 to bring them the happiness they were seeking out on that dance-floor.
Elias and Rita were enjoying the Istanbul snow together only hours before tragedy struck.
It’s heartbreaking how uncertain and fickle our existence as people and as Lebanese is.
Fewer things are as tragic as this: to fall victim to acts of terror, to have your death be analyzed a hundred thousand times fold, to be called a “martyr” in an attempt to normalize the horror to which Elias, Rita and Haykal were victims, and since this is Lebanon, to have your death become a national circus for your country’s media to bring in as many viewers and ad money as they possibly could.
Elias was a personal trainer. He was engaged, to be married. He was 26.
Rita was one of my close friend’s best friends. Her mother, who also happens to be her best friend had recently passed away after a tough battle with cancer. Rita had left her studies in Radio and TV to be by her mother’s side.
Haykal Moussallem was a married man, and a physical fitness trainer for many of Lebanon’s basketball teams. He was currently Tadamon’s trainer.
Elias Wardini, Rita Chami and Haykal Moussallem, I didn’t know you but I know many of your friends, and they all loved you so. May you all rest in peace, and may your family find solace in you being loved by so many this much.
Elias, Rita and Haykal were actual people. They loved, were loved. They tried to thrive, to build their lives, to reclaim things they had lost. That is a concept that is escaping Lebanese TV stations as they treat Elias, Rita and Haykal as nothing more than push notification entities to get traffic to their websites, sensational stories to get viewers to their channels and click-baits to drive ad money on their websites.
Dear Lebanese TV stations, let me copy paste the rant I’ve already written about you with its many expletives before I elaborate further:
Lebanese TV stations are so fucking unprofessional. How despicable can you get to go to the houses of Istanbul’s victims, film their families receiving the news of their passing, asking them all kinds of ridiculous questions. How the fuck do you think they’re feeling? Are they happy? Do you think I want to see people receiving the worst news of their lives? Fuck you.
It started with them spreading fake news, giving false hope to Elias Wardini’s family that he was safe and sound, without any basis, without fact checking it, without giving a shit how false hope is as devastating in instances such as this as knowing the truth:
They also did the same with Haykal Moussallem. Please note that both fake stories are the same; Haykal and Elias had jumped into the water:
When it was clear that Elias Wardini did not make it, they set up camp in the middle of his family’s house, filmed them receiving the news of his passing, filmed Elias’ sister receiving the shock of her life and reacting to it as she learned her brother was no more, made the father of the victim cry on national TV, interviewed politicians who couldn’t wait for their moment in the spotlight in the middle of the family’s house.
The more news about more victims surfaced, the more they sought out their sensationalism. More houses were visited. More devastated family members were asked “how they felt,” as if they would answer anything other than “heartbroken.” More interpretation by all knowing news hosts, anchors and reporters were thrown at us about how those families were dealing, coping, and receiving the news.
It’s as if they’re not aware that those that passed away and those that are in critical conditions are people with loved ones and friends who are worried about them. It’s as if they don’t know, based on our previous experiences with the horror we’ve experienced on our soil, how devastating such events could be, let alone have them take place on what should be joyful celebratory days. It’s like they’re not aware of the theatrics they are doing, the reality TV show they’re turning those families’ lives into as they’ll never be whole again, as they’ll never look at New Year’s Day the same once more.
It doesn’t stop there, but even after PM Saad Hariri personally asked Lebanese TV stations to stop their coverage from the houses of the victims, MTV’s reporters not only refuse to do so but call on the Red Cross on live TV to come to the victims’ houses because some of their family members had fainted from the news. Don’t they have a phone they could call from? Or an ounce of dignity they wanted to preserve by not pretending to play heroes on national TV?
That wasn’t the end of it. Our media tried to play the role of the only heroes in this affair, with them being the only entity fighting for our Lebanese victims. Fighting how? With the charade they were airing. Meanwhile, our government was on top of things with a plane being sent with medical equipment to bring back our countrymen home, have all their medical expenses paid for, and have MEA issue free tickets to Istanbul for all families involved.
My heart breaks on this first day of the year ten folds. It breaks because my country is, once again, at the heart of an international tragedy. It breaks for Rita, Elias and Haykal, for all the potential they had, for all the love they gave those that loved them, for all the hope they had and all the days they had in front of them. It breaks for their families, who are as broken as this country on this horrifying morning.
And throughout those breaks, I can’t but be disgusted at how our media handle – and always handle – our national losses. We are not material for you to get money. We are not sources for you to be sensational. We are not faceless names you call martyrs to rouse emotions. We are people. We have lives. We have families. We deserve privacy. We deserve some dignity. And you, dear media, deserve a big fat: fuck you.