Just after the first half between Cameroon vs. Brazil World Cup match ended, an explosion sound went off at Beirut’s southern suburb. It turned out to be a suicide bomber who exploded his car close to a Lebanese army checkpoint. The Lebanese people (at least some of them who weren’t deeply consumed by the World Cup match) and many of the concerned foreigners sought information from the media. Either by watching the live coverage some local TV stations provided, or by checking these media outlets’ Twitter timeline, the people tried to know what was going on. The Lebanese media, unfortunately never fails to disappoint us with their unprofessional coverage of the events.
Minutes after the explosion took place, Lebanese Broadcasting Company International (LBCI), Future News, OTV and MTV all agreed that the first estimation of casualties is 3 innocent martyrs and more than 20 wounded civilians. They even tweeted this to their approximate one million followers (combined). Who did they get their sources from? No one knows. LBCI was the first to publish such a number at 12:30 A.M. followed by OTV after 3 minutes, MTV said the same at 12:35 A.M (but they attributed it to their correspondent). MTV kept swinging between one or three dead casualties, a minute later (12:36 A.M.) they said one confirmed martyr, and then changed their mind at 12:46 A.M. to the “3 dead” story. Future News copied pasted at 12:48 A.M. (18 minutes later and didn’t bother to check the info). Less than an hour later, all media channels announced that there were no death casualties in the blast. LBCI contributed the news to “unidentified sources”, while Future and OTV quoted the Lebanese Red Cross. That would have been a good job for the media outlets (especially the “alleged” MTV reporter) if the number of casualties was correct. Al Akhbar newspaper mentioned few hours later that there was one killed person; a General Security officer. So who is correct? Until now, there hasn’t been any official statement from the Ministry of Health or the Lebanese Government.
All TV channels raced to announce the type of the car that was used by the suicide bomber. Al Jadeed were the first to report that the used car was a Mercedes ML with plate number 144631 at 12:25 A.M. It took LBCI extra 8 minutes to announce that the car used is a Mercedes with plate number 221815, MTV contradicted it two minutes later saying it was a Mercedes 180 with plate number 141631 (seems they made a typo although they also attributed this to their correspondent). Future News also took their time (an hour approximately) and then repeated the same data (Mercedes 180 – 1961 version with plate number 144631). Guess what? It turned out that the Mercedes 190 car (according to Al Akhbar) was parked in the area for months. It wasn’t the car used for the bombing. Al Jadeed topped all the media outlets thinking they were Detective Conan running a search on the car plate number and publishing the result (name of car owner) on their social media feeds. They simply accused an innocent man that his car was used for an explosion. Is this media coverage or another scene from CSI? To top this, the car shown in the explosion was still in one piece from the front, and none of the media outlets even bothered to think how come an exploded car would remain intact.
MTV didn’t fail to impress the Lebanese and international public by announcing that the suicide bomber was actually a female. Four of their tweets that are based on their reporters’ words confirmed she was a woman, suddenly the story changed. Future News were too hurry to publish the news (though they were extremely late) that they made several typos (even in their own channel’s name). So did ElNashra website.
The Lebanese state TV (Tele Liban) didn’t even bother to cut the live broadcast of the World Cup’s Brazil vs. Cameroon match and all they did was to send out a tweet about the explosion just between the result of the first and second halves of the game. National Broadcasting News (NBN) owned by speaker of the house and head of Amal movement Nabih Berry didn’t even bother to use their digital media to inform the public of the explosion, although 9 hours ago, they were busy on Twitter. It seems they are short on staff to run the digital media at night.
The Lebanese audience and a number of journalists expressed their frustration due to all these mentioned media outrageous mistakes. The peak was when Al Jadeed decides to go between the remaining, messing with screen evidence and stepping over the crime scene.
It is a misfortune to have this number of unprofessional errors during coverage of such an incident. All the excuses blamed on the nature of the coverage should be dismissed. It is neither the first time an explosion takes a place in Lebanon, nor the first time the Lebanese media commits these mistakes. They could have at least trained their staff, learned better to fact check their data before going public with them, and learn better that they are reporters and not the police.