Reuters Hijacking Lebanon's answer to UN
August 6th, 2006
Walid Phares
Few hours after a Franco-American draft for a UN Security Council resolution was released, pro-Hezbollah lobbies and allies launched a campaign to hijack the response of Lebanon to the United Nations. As noted by seasoned observers the campaign started at the top with an alert release by News Agency Reuters written by Lin Noueihed. The article, put out early Sunday has reached the four corners of the Globe and its title has framed the position of the Lebanese people in a "no" to the UN expected resolution. Amazingly enough, Lin Noueihid titles her release "Lebanon rejects draft UN resolution." But when you read the release you realize that the "representative" of all of Lebanon in the eyes of the Reuters reporter is no one other than pro-Syrian, Hezbollah ally, Nabih Berri, the leader of Shiite Movement Amal.

Noueihid wrote that "Lebanon rejects a draft U.N. Security Council resolution to end 26 days of fighting because it would allow Israeli forces to remain on Lebanese soil, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said on Sunday." Basing her entire report on one of the most powerful supporters of the Syrian occupation and who heads a militia allied to Hezbollah, Noueihid gives Berri the full power of the credibility of Reuters. This title will find itself printed from Yahoo to the last local newsletter in the Fidji islands. Evidently, local editors around the world trust Reuters as they trust the Red Cross, and will conclude that indeed "Lebanon" has rejected a UN resolution, while in reality, it is Tehran-Damascus-Hezbollah axis that rejected it, and unfortunately a Reuters writer framed it otherwise.

Noueihid wrote "Slamming the French-U.S. draft as biased, Berri said it ignored a seven-point plan presented by Lebanon that calls for an immediate ceasefire, the withdrawal of Israeli forces and the return of all displaced civilians among other things." He added that ""Lebanon, and all of Lebanon, rejects any resolution that is outside these seven points," said Berri, who has been negotiating on behalf of Hizbollah guerrillas. But leaders of the civil society, NGOs, members of Parliament and cadres from the Cedars Revolution said just the opposite. "The people of Lebanon, those who marched in downtown Beirut on March 14, 2005 are with this resolution" said Toni Nissi, coordinator for UNSCR 1559 in Beirut. "Who represent Lebanon more than the one million and a half Lebanese who demonstrated against the Syrian occupation, for Hezbollah disarming and against the regime of Lahoud and Berri," said Youssef Douiahi, President of the World Council for the Cedars Revolution from Sydney. "We've been on the phones with heads of municipalities and MPs in Lebanon and no one accepts Reuters assumption that war lord Nabih Berri represents Lebanon's response to the UN," said Tom Harb, secretary general of the Committee 1559 . "M Berri's legislative bloc is in the minority. He was unfortunately reelected at the position of the speaker of the house by the legislative majority headed by M Saad Hariri. Surely that was a political mistake but this doesn't give Reuters to frame Lebanon's will and reduce the popular majority of the country to be represented against its will by a militia leader, who by the way was responsible for the hijacking of the TWA airliner in 1985."

Reuter quotes Berri stating that "heir resolution will either drop Lebanon into internal strife or will be impossible to implement," which in fact reveals his intents and those of Hezbollah: If the UN resolution is voted Hezbollah and its allies will attack the Lebanese Government and the Cedars Revolution

Reuters wrote that Berri considered the wording of the resolution was loaded against Lebanon. He complained that an international force that would be established by a second U.N. resolution, following an initial resolution establishing a truce, would come under Chapter Seven of the U.N. charter, which authorizes the use of force, but would not necessarily be answerable to the world body. Analysis which confirms reports that Syria, Iran and Hezbollah are poised to take the fight against the United Nations and any international force.

Commenting from Beirut, Human Rights activist and Cedars Revolution Human Rights officer Kamal Batal said the "Reuters framing of Lebanon's answer to the UN is a hijacking of the opinions of millions of Lebanese. The popular majority in Lebanon wants to end the War now and the disbanding of all militias," he said. Analyzing Reuters' release closely George Chaya, Director for the Lebanese Information Office for Latin America in Buenos Aires said "it is not really a coincidence that Lin Nouaihid twisted realities and induced millions of readers around the world into error in perception. From a thorough review of Nouaihid's previous campaigns through Reuters and other media, you can easily see her framings in the Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Koran affairs in addition to her postings on radical web sites. Nouaihid has all the freedom to express her ideological positions but Reuters credibility as a fair and professional news agency are now damaged."

In fact the Lebanese Government of Fouad Seniora has stated that the UN draft doesn't meet their requirements of a real solution. He told CNN that this draft "is not really adequate and does not really achieve the objective that they have set for themselves." Seniora and his colleagues wanted a stronger UN resolution that would help Lebanon regain its control of its land. Berri's position is different: he is opposed to any UN resolution that would give Lebanon's army an international support to disarm the militia.

As I argued in my book Future Jihad, the war of ideas has been raging for years in the media and academia. Lebanon's framing is not new. During the long and terrible wars of Lebanon from 1975 till 2000, writers in news agencies and journalists such as Jonathan Randall, Thierry DesJardins, Robert Fisk and others sculpted the perception of Lebanon at their discretion and often against the thinking process of Lebanon's popular majority.

***Dr Walid Phares is a Senior Fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a Visiting Fellow with the European Foundation for Democracies.