SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Hate Speech against the LGBTQIA+ Community in Lebanese Media

Monday , 15 August 2022

Introduction


The rights of the LGBTQIA+ community have returned to the headlines in view of the recent increase in incitement and hate campaigns targeting its members. The bigotry, hate-fuelled, and discriminatory action on display has sought to intimidate LGBTQIA+ members and prevent them from organising activities in June, also known as “Pride Month.” This event aims at amplifying the LGBTQIA+ voices and celebrating multiple sexual and gender identities.  


The SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom has been monitoring hate speech in Lebanese media (news bulletins and talk shows shows) and on social media for the past two years. In that time, said media outlets have largely ignored the issue of LGBTQIA+ rights. Most recently, the Aliwaa newspaper published an article entitled “Under the slogans of equality and human justice... Aliwaa sheds light on unethical activities in Beirut” in its June 24, 2022 issue No. 16415. The article, which deliberately undermines the LGBTQIA+ community, marked the beginning of a systematic campaign against its members with the unobscured aim of brazen intimidation.


In light of the attack and inflammatory rhetoric used against the community, the SKeyes Center has opted to launch a special report employing the tried and tested methodology of the aforementioned media monitoring reports. The special report monitors the news bulletins of the MTV, LBCI, OTV, Télé Liban, Al-Jadeed, and Al-Manar channels, but also the articles published in several newspapers and news websites, including Addiyar, Annahar, Aliwaa, Nida Al-Watan, Al-Akhbar, Al-Modon, Megaphone, Daraj, and Lebanon Files.


Through this special report, SKeyes aims to monitor and analyse the media’s performance in covering the campaign and attack against the LGBTQIA+ community in Lebanon, while simultaneously identifying the parties responsible for spreading the hate campaign. Another stated aim of this report is an exploration of the Lebanese media’s perception and coverage of the LGBTQIA+ issues ranging from the voyeuristic to the humane. The monitored period is from June 24, 2022 to June 27, 2022, with the onslaught of hostile attitudes toward the LGBTQIA+ community at the hands of religious and political figures, as well as media institutions, marking the beginning of said period.

 

TV Coverage


LBCI

LBCI upheld the LGBTQIA+ rights and raised the issue in its evening news bulletin introduction on June 26, 2022 (duration: 3’40) using positive and supportive terms when referring to the community, and stating that homosexuality is a personal right protected by international laws. It also criticised the provocative attitudes adopted by religious figures. “How is it that the Mufti of the Republic, the Grand Jaafari Mufti, and the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Beirut and its Dependencies suddenly remembered homosexuals and insulted them in every possible way? From perversion to lust and sin, to even describing them as perverted butchers, except for the Maronite Patriarch, who did not address – at least in his sermon today – the issue. It seems that religious figures have already picked their next battle, turning a blind eye to the fact that Lebanese are being robbed. They are also ignoring the collapsing currency, the unemployment, the hunger, and poverty, and prefer to focus on more important issues. The channel emphasised that homosexuality is a personal right guaranteed by international laws. The discourse, argued LBCI, must not revolve around the acceptance or rejection of homosexuality, but rather the battle for freedoms intrinsically guaranteed by the Constitution, alongside the necessity to defend diversity and difference. This “battle” to build a real State, continued LBCI, starts within Parliament.


The channel also broadcasted a video report (duration: 4’17) during the evening news bulletin on June 26 under the name “Communities stand up against civil marriage, religious courts, and homosexuality… so, why are they that afraid of these files?” The report is impartial and sheds light on the positions adopted by religious figures – such as the Mufti of the Republic, Sheikh Abdul-Latif Derian, the Grand Jaafari Mufti, Sheikh Ahmad Kabalan, and the Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elias Aoudé – against the LGBTQIA+ community. As for the rest of the report, it tackled civil marriage and the abolition of religious courts, which figured more significantly.


The channel continued its pro-LGBTQIA+ coverage through a video report during the evening news bulletin on June 27 (duration: 4’28) under the name “Homophobia takes over Parliament.” It used positive terms such as protecting homosexuals and their rights and tried to expose the positions of MPs as to gay rights and civil marriage. Several MPs said “it’s not time for this issue. We are looking for means to secure the country’s stability” and that “this issue is not a priority.” The report also shows the ones who refrained from commenting and the positions of the parliamentary blocs that are in favour of this issue or against it.


MTV

The channel’s approach was different as it did not adopt a clear position in favour of the LGBTQIA+ community, but rather a neutral one, even though it did tackle the subject in its evening news bulletin on June 26 (duration: 1’46).  It called on religious authorities to remain calm and asked the organisations defending the LGBTQIA+ rights to respect the “cultural specificities of the Lebanese society.” It stressed the importance of dialogue, saying: “If you followed the news on social media in the past two days, you might think that a global war broke out overnight. Campaigns are raging, while endless statements and counter statements are being published. The positions adopted and the comments made are harsh. Indeed, Lebanon’s Interior Minister, Bassam Mawlawi, sent a letter to the General Directorates of General and Internal Securities, calling on security forces to prevent gatherings that promote homosexuality. Regardless of the past and present events, as well as the legality or illegality of the Minister’s move, and apart from the intervention of the different religious authorities, the issue should be calmly approached. There is no point in threatening to kill and shed blood. Lebanon is tired of wars about each and every thing. If we, as Lebanese, are unable to reach an agreement in public policy and strategic issues, are we also failing in private issues related to life and personal freedoms? The issue should therefore be addressed calmly. Christian and Muslim religious authorities that are expressing their opinion should restore calm and promote the culture of dialogue. Also, the organisations that are calling to legalise homosexuality should take into account the cultural specificities of the Lebanese society and the sensitivity of the issue in order to deal realistically with the matter. Both sides are required to tone down the speech and conduct a deep and direct dialogue away from social media. Lebanon is above all a message of dialogue. If dialogue is lost, what is left?”


On June 26, during the evening news bulletin, the channel also published a report titled “Postponing the gay pride in Ashrafieh” (duration: 1’26), in which it tackled the division within the Lebanese society, where supporters of the LGBT movement receive death threats. Furthermore, it showed a group of people who call themselves “Soldiers of God” destroying a rainbow billboard. It recounted what happened two days earlier when the Interior Minister sent the letter without adopting a clear position in favour of the community, but rather a neutral, narrative discourse.


On June 24, the channel published a 40-second report as part of the regional and international news section, where it detailed an attack carried out on two bars in Norway, which led to the gay pride cancellation based on a security recommendation.


OTV

During the monitored period, the channel did not publish any news related to the LGBTQIA+ rights or incitement campaigns against them, except for a ten-second segment in its June 27 evening news bulletin introduction, saying after the attention was focused on gay rights, which reflect once again the Lebanese divisions, regardless of communities, sects, and parties, it shifted back to basics, particularly the forensic audit of the Banque du Liban accounts…”


Al-Manar

The channel did not publish any news related to the LGBTQIA+ rights or incitement campaigns against them.


Télé Liban

The media coverage focused on the covering the statements made by religious figures against the LGBTQIA+ community, particularly the Grand Jaafari Mufti, Sheikh Ahmad Kabalan and the Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elias Aoudé. They used negative and discriminatory terms such as “human anomalies, perversion, guiding desires, and organising them within moral and spiritual frameworks, changing Lebanon’s moral identity,” in a report (duration: 2’35) during the June 26 news evening bulletin.


Al-Jadeed

The channel published a positive report (duration: 3’30) during its June 26 evening news bulletin using words such as “pride” and “gay and lesbian rights.” It referred to cultural awareness activities during pride month and displayed data issued by organisations defending LGBTQIA+ rights. Al-Jadeed was also the only channel to conduct an interview with an LGBTQIA+ activist, Doumit Azzi Draiby, in which he talked about threats, hate speech, and the campaign carried out against the community.


Fig.1

Figure 1 shows the TV coverage of the LGBTQIA+ community during the monitored period, as per the number of reports published during the evening news bulletins. The LBCI and MTV channels recorded the same percentage (33% each), followed by Al-Jadeed and Télé Liban (17% each).

Fig.2


Figure 2
shows that the hate speech against homosexuals and their issues in the evening news bulletins of the monitored media stems mainly from religious figures (61%), followed by official authorities (28%) and the public (11%).


(The numbers in Figure 2 are based on the number of sources containing hate speech).

Fig.3

Figure 3 shows that media outlets are the main source of positive and neutral speech (50%), followed by civil society and activists (25%), as well as official authorities (25%).

(The numbers in Figure 3 are based on the number of sources containing positive and neutral speech).

Fig.4

Total Coverage Time: 1,352 seconds


The total duration of the reports published by the LBCI channel is 745 seconds, which represents 55% – the highest rate. It is followed by MTV with 232 seconds (17%), Al-Jadeed with 210 seconds (16%), Télé Liban with 155 seconds (11%), OTV with ten seconds (1%), and Al-Manar which refrained from publishing reports entirely (0%).

Newspaper Coverage


Addiyar

The daily published the positions of the Mufti Abdul-Latif Derian, the Grand Jaafari Mufti, Sheikh Ahmad Kabalan, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elias Aoudé, and Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi, all of which were unremittently incendiary utilizing discriminatory terms against the LGBTQIA+ community such as “human anomalies, promoting homosexuality, perversion, guiding desires and organising them within moral and spiritual frameworks, changing Lebanon’s moral identity.” It also published a report tackling the reactions to Mawlawi’s letter, with opinions mainly supporting the LGBTQIA+ community. The five reports are: “Derian: we will not tolerate the civil marriage proposition that goes against Islam”; “Reverting homosexuality: the necessity to guide desires and organise them within moral and spiritual frameworks”; “After complaints before religious authorities… Mawlawi sends a letter calling on security forces to prevent gatherings that promote homosexuality”; “Kabalan: we strongly reject homosexuality and it won’t happen in Lebanon”; and “How did the Lebanese interact with the Interior Minister’s decision to prevent gay gatherings?”


Annahar

The newspaper published five reports. Two of them tackled the positions of the Mufti Abdul-Latif Derian and the Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elias Aoudé: “Dar Al-Fatwa will not tolerate the civil marriage proposition” and “Archbishop Aoudé: God doesn’t bless homosexual behaviour but prohibits it. Therefore, it is necessary to guide desires and organise them”. The reports contained bigoted and discriminatory terms such as “human anomalies, promoting homosexuality, perversion, guiding desires and organising them within moral and spiritual frameworks, changing Lebanon’s moral identity,” thereby seemingly inciting hatred toward the LGBTQIA+ community. The three other reports are in favour of the community members and shed light on the intimidation, marginalisation, and persecution they suffer, and included a condemnation of the letter sent by the Interior Minister. The reports used positive terms such as “homosexuality is exercising your natural right and not a criminal offense” or “homosexuality is considered as a natural sexual orientation. The reports are: “Society against homosexuality”, “LGBTQ+ Community: when intimidation adds to marginalisation” and “Condemning the Interior Minister’s decision: the judiciary has already confirmed that homosexuality is not a crime”.


Aliwaa

This newspaper has played a major role in the incitement campaign against the LGBTQIA+ community since the publication of its first report on June 24 “Under the slogans of equality and social justice… Aliwaa sheds light on “unethical” activities in Beirut”. It claimed that its campaign is “ethical.” The daily published another report on June 27, titled Aliwaa reveals dark plan… Interior Ministry takes action to prevent tarnishing Beirut’s reputation”, framing such a move as praiseworthy. The article states: “Aliwaa was the first to reveal a series of unethical moves inciting to immorality and other actions that violate the lowest principles of morality…” The two reports included a considerable part of hate speech, negative terms, and discrimination, such as “ungodly madness, gays and lesbians call on celebrating perverted rituals, a call to confront homosexuals.” It completed its report with a series of inflammatory positions adopted by religious and political figures such as Dr. Sami Abi Al-Muna, Sheikh Al-Aql of the Unitarian Druze community, the Mufti of Tripoli and the North Sheikh Mohammad Imam, the Grand Jaafari Mufti, Sheikh Ahmad Kabalan, as well as MPs Ashraf Rifi and Walid Al-Baarini. The newspaper also published five other reports and an op-ed, inciting against the LGBTQIA+ community or criticising the reformist MPs who support the community. One of the reports stresses the need to retain Article 534, which criminalises homosexuality, in the new draft penal code. According to the article, “any sexual intercourse contrary to nature leads to a prison sentence of one month to one year and a fine ranging from LBP 200,000 to 1,000,000.” The daily also published two international reports related to suppressing LGBTQIA+ activities.


Discriminatory negative terms were also used in these publications (whether by the media itself or the religious figures) such as “homosexuality obscenity; abnormal homosexuality; pink triangle coffins and rainbow graves; Lebanon shall not become a bar for homosexuals.” The reports are “Saudi authorities confiscate toys and shirts that promote homosexuality”, “Gay pride in Istanbul… dozens of people arrested”; “Rifi on homosexuality: we refuse the systematic promotion of this unacceptable behaviour”; “Is homosexuality a priority for reformist MPs?”; “Homosexuality: the necessity to keep Article 534 in the new draft penal code”; and “Mohammad Sleiman: we support the Mufti’s speech… some voices are calling for homosexuality and immorality”.


Al-Akhbar

The press coverage during the monitored period was limited to a short article on June 24: “Mawlawi responds to the call of religious figures to prevent homosexual gatherings”, which briefly included the minister’s statement.


Nida' Al-Watan

The newspaper published four reports and an article in its coverage of LGBTQIA+ issues. All four reports focused on the positions adopted by religious and political figures. They included incitement against the community and used negative, offensive, and discriminatory sentences. The positions of activists and human rights defenders in favour of LGBTQIA+ rights were timidly monitored. The reports are “Archbishop Aoudé: God doesn’t bless gay behaviour but prohibits it”; “Derian: we will not tolerate the civil marriage proposition that goes against Islam”; “This is what Mawlawi asked the General and Internal Securities” and “Interior Minister asked security services to prevent LGBT activities”. The editor-in-chief of the newspaper, Bechara Charbel, wrote an article titled “Mawlawi and homosexuals: no to repression, no to promotion” where he adopted a neutral position towards LGBTQIA+ issues and rights. He said: “The middle-ground position is neither a compromise between two extremes nor a way to bring them closer but rather a realistic position that many are in favour of. It is based on understanding others, while respecting them and their freedom of expression. It also recognises the State’s right to impose regulations protecting citizens from any harm. However, in his article, he refuses to consider homosexuality as a natural behaviour. He says: “As for considering homosexuality a natural behaviour in general and encouraging it in line with a global trend, it is totally unacceptable, because it is contrary to the nature that society and human personality are built on.” The newspaper also published five international reports tackling the arrests and prosecution the community members were victims of at the gay pride in Istanbul or even the attack in a Norwegian bar. The reports are: “Arrests at gay pride in Istanbul”; “Gay pride cancellation after shooting in Oslo”; “Gay Pride in Istanbul: arresting 400 people before releasing them”; “Istanbul: dispersing gay pride”; and “Norway: ceremony to honour Oslo victims”.


Fig.5


Figure 5
shows the newspaper coverage of the LGBTQIA+ issues during the monitored period. Nida Al-Watan published the highest number of reports (10 reports – 34%), followed by Aliwaa (8 reports – 28%), then Addiyar and Annahar (5 reports each – 17%), Télé Liban (17% each) and finally Al-Akhbar (4%).

Fig.6


Figure 6
shows that the hate speech against homosexuals and their issues in the monitored newspapers stems mainly from official authorities (53%), followed by religious figures (37%) and the media (10%).

(The numbers in Figure 6 are based on the number of sources containing hate speech).

Fig.7

Figure 7 shows that civil society and activists are the main source of positive and neutral speech with a very high percentage (80%), followed by official authorities and religious authorities equally (10%).

(The numbers in Figure 7 are based on the number of sources containing positive and neutral speech).

Fig.8

Total Coverage: 11,047 words


Aliwaa
published eight reports (3,709 words), which represents 34% of the total media coverage as shown in Figure 8. It is followed by Nida' Al-Watan with nine reports (2,851 words), which is a total of 26%, then Annahar with five reports (2,846 words – 25%), Addiyar (1,571 words – 14%) and Al-Akhbar (70 words – 1%).

Digital Media

 

Al-Modon

The website adopted a position in favour of the LGBTQIA+ community in the five reports it published, using supportive terms such as “homophobia” and “strengthening repression in the country” (after cancelling the Beirut Pride events). It also criticised the ones attacking the community, such as the “Soldiers of God,” as well as the assault carried out against LGBTQIA+ individuals as a tool of intimidation. The website also criticised one of the guests who held an incendiary speech against the community on a TV show. The reports are “The Soldiers of God in Lebanon… the latest intimidation tool”; “Helem postpones its event amidst wars of statements and stances”; “Mohammad Kanou undermines human rights… and disrespects supportive host”; “After abortion decision… homosexuals fear for their marriage”; and “Homophobia results in the arrest of dozens of people in Istanbul”.


Megaphone

The platform published three articles in support of the community, using positive terms. It also criticised the letter sent by Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi in an article titled “The Little Minister Afraid of Queers” and another one titled “Extremely Urgent”. It used sentences such as “executing the orders of religious authorities,” “the regime kills differences, suppresses freedoms, and incites against minorities and homosexuals,” and “issuing an arbitrary statement” in reference to the letter sent by Mawlawi. The website also published an article titled “FPM embraces personal freedoms after inciting against them,” in light of the website’s continuous quest for monitoring hate speech against the LGBTQIA+ community.


Daraj

The website published two articles in support of the community within a human rights framework. In “Homophobia and repression amidst Lebanese collapse… rainbow phobia and undermining freedoms”, it listed the violations against the community, revealing the incendiary positions of religious figures and using words that reflect the repressive reality such as “official authorities’ homophobia”. Also, in a report titled “The war carried out by religious figures against the LGBTQIA+ community to save the regime in Lebanon”, it attacked religious figures after their inflammatory statements against the community.

 

Lebanon Files

All publications on the website were the positions adopted by religious and political figures against the LGBTQIA+ community – Mufti Abdul-Latif Derian, Sheikh Al-Aql of the Unitarian Druze community Dr. Sami Abi Al-Muna, Grand Jaafari Mufti, Sheikh Ahmad Kabalan, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elias Aoudé, Allamah Sayyed Ali Fadlallah, MP Hassan Fadlallah, and Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi. Negative discriminatory terms or phrases such as “human anomalies, promoting homosexuality, perversion, the necessity to guide desires and organise them within moral and spiritual frameworks, attempts to destroy family, youth and kids through perversion” were employed. The reports are: “Promoting homosexuality… Mawlawi’s letter to prevent this phenomenon”; “Sheikh Al-Aql praises Interior Minister’s decision to ban celebrations promoting homosexuality”; “Wiam Wahhab: to be honest, you are all gays”; “Raef Rida: who is behind gay gathering in times like these?”; “Ali Fadlallah: we support all those who condemn the promotion of homosexuality”; “Kabalan stands with Mufti Derian: a message to homosexuals”; and “Hassan Fadlallah: it is our duty to tackle anomalies and perversion”.


Fig.9


Figure 9
shows the digital media coverage of the LGBTQIA+ community during the monitored period. Lebanon Files has the highest number of publications (7 reports – 41%), followed by Al-Modon (5 reports – 29%), Megaphone (3 reports – 18%) and finally Daraj (2 reports – 12%).

Fig.10

Figure 10 shows that the hate speech against homosexuals and their issues in the digital media stems mainly from religious figures (50%), followed by official authorities (41%), the public (6%) and the media itself (3%).

(The numbers in Figure 10 are based on the number of sources containing hate speech).



Fig.11


Figure 11
shows that civil society and activists are the main source of positive and neutral speech with a high percentage (56%), followed by official authorities (28%) and the media (16%).

(The numbers in Figure 11 are based on the number of sources containing positive and neutral speech).

Fig.12

Total Coverage: 5,605 words


Al-Modon
published five reports (2,499 words), which represents 45% of the total media coverage as shown in Figure 12. It is followed by Daraj with two reports (1,218 words), which constitutes a total of 22%, then Lebanon Files with seven reports (952 words – 17%) and finally Megaphone with three reports (936 words – 16%).

 

Conclusions and recommendations

  • The main sources of hate speech and discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community were religious and political figures or official authorities.
  • Civil society and activists were the main source of positive and supportive speech, despite the fact that the media did not provide them with the required space to counter this incitement campaign led by religious figures.
  • Al-Manar and OTV failed to cover the issue during the monitored period. As for LBCI, MTV, Al-Jadeed, and Télé Liban, they used different coverage styles, contents and tones, while adopting a positive approach rather than a negative one.
  • The newspapers used cautious speech when tackling LGBTQIA+ issues, while the Aliwaa daily played a major role in inciting against the community, using offensive and discriminatory terms.
  • The digital media played a positive, supportive role. Activists were empowered and given the largest space to defend LGBTQIA+ issues.
  • Traditional media appear to be lagging behind in terms of developing positive and inclusive content toward the LGBTQIA+ community, as opposed to simply adopting a neutral narrative stance. It is also crucial that members of the community are provided with the space and platform to express their concerns, needs and opinions.
  • All media institutions have a moral obligation to reject incitement, hate speech and offensive language. An outright refusal to publish bigoted statements made by religious figures encompassing a clear call to violence against the LGBTQIA+ community, or containing such terms as “anomaly, abnormal homosexuality, and perverts,” would constitute a positive stance which is more in keeping with the promotion of human rights. Publishing incendiary positions against the community could indirectly incite viewers or readers to adopt a negative approach against the LGBTQIA+ community and their rights.

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