Tripoli is on the news for two things today: a terrorist attack and the blatant disrespect of journalists.
Before we begin, here is a little lead to summarize the basic details:
Last night, a gunman who was, according to LBCI, a former member of ISIS, Abdel Rahman el Mabsout went into Nakabet el Atobba and Centrale in Tripoli. He killed 6 people, 4 of them Soldiers, Internal and General Security officers, the other 2 were civilians. He apparently blew himself up as he was being cornered and died before he could spread any further carnage.
When I heard the news, I was on my way back from work in Beirut. People in the van started talking about it. They said something about an attack that happened on the Centrale, close to Pistachio Chicken. I was honestly confused because I had just arrived in Tripoli and I was already hearing about an attack. My mother was worried about me despite the fact that my van’s route doesn’t even pass by the street where the killing happened.
One thing that struck me was when one man said this, “Tripoli can never have a day of joy”. In a sense, he was right. There is very little to feel optimistic about in this foresaken city. There are no job opportunities, no infrastructure, no tourism, no life, and now a lot of people cannot enjoy a simple Eid. Something is always being robbed from the people of Tripoli and nothing proves this more than what happened that night.
However, I’m not here to bemoan the waste of potential that is Tripoli. The reason I’m writing this is because something really bugged me about how this was being covered. This time it had nothing to do with the media manipulating it into a war narrative. This is actually about how the people of Tripoli handled the coverage.
A journalist from LDC (affiliate of LBC), a blonde, blue eyed man approached the scene of the crime and began to cover the news. As he was covering the attack, some of Tripoli’s citizens and security officials decided to basically make a mockery of themselves by harassing and pestering him in the middle of the job. Several onlookers began heckling the journalist and wasting his time. One man was waving at the camera and when he tried to speak, he basically just said he didn’t know anything. People were just walking around as if they’ve never seen a camera before. But honestly, the worst part of the whole ordeal was when security officials began harassing the journalist and his camera man. The poor guy was just doing his job and to harass him like that was disgusting and extremely disrespectful. For the people who went on Facebook to complain about lack of media coverage should maybe see for themselves why the media won’t do so.
I’m honestly aware that this subject is sensitive and we cannot really expect rationality at times of crisis but this was a circus. There is no excuse for harassing a journalist. The job is already hard as it is especially since this was a live coverage and he had to keep updating the station on what is happening. But a guy from one of the security forces decided that it was a nice idea to begin touching the camera and sabotaging the journalist’s coverage of the event.
This type of disrespect – it’s a hallmark of authoritarianism. A country that does not respect its journalists does not deserve to call itself a democracy.