Immunity Backs Lebanese Politicians' Frantic Tweeting

Immunity Backs Lebanese Politicians' Frantic Tweeting

Wednesday, 19 September, 2018 - 09:15
Beirut - Sanaa el-Jack
Taking to Twitter in service of their own ends, Lebanese politicians use the platform to expose secrets previously kept exclusive to political echelons. But unlike the average citizen, Twitter-active politicians enjoy immunity.

Maj. Gen. Jamil al-Sayyid said that posting on Twitter was a simple daily habit he practiced with no expectations whatsoever for his account to pick up a following of over 300,000.

“In the past, I was obsessed with the notion of expression, and made frequent contacts with televisions and newspapers to convey my stances,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“But with Twitter, it’s like I have my own radio podcast, television broadcast and a newspaper right at home. It takes one sentence to make an impact," he added.

In another muscle flexing Twitter spat, Environment Minister Tarek Khatib scolds Lebanese journalist Charles Ayoub over the latter’s prodding around affairs of the caretaker Foreign Minister, Gebran Bassil.

In an Arabic tweet, Khatib tells Ayoub that his “harassment of great warriors will not take him any higher, and that Gebran Bassil will not stoop down to his level and grant him the privilege of response.”

“You need a mental hospital,” Khatib slams Ayoub.

Sociology Professor Dr. Talal Atrissi deplored double standards practiced in Lebanon that see to politicians getting off scot-free with blasting rivals, while the average citizen is dragged into investigations.

A politician posts whatever comes to his mind on Twitter with minimal accountability.

Unlike interviews and debates that are moderated by journalists, social media does not constrain the politician, Atrissi criticized.

“The Lebanese see Twitter as an escape, and simply don’t care about filtering what they say because they do not personally know the reader or responder,” he added.

“But if we assume that politicians are leaders and a role model for the public, then hearing an official cursing and using denigrate language makes way for others doing the same,” Atrissi said on the poorly, at times rudely, phrased tweets.

Atrissi remarked that a politician is responsible whenever he or she speaks, explaining that an elected representative is not an ordinary person that can act freely and in an unbalanced manner.

On social media, Lebanese politicians have not been shy in expressing hostility, brazenly lambasting their rivals.

“The issue with Lebanese behavior is facing each other edgily and aggressively on Twitter-- as if there is hostility harbored against anyone who is not me,” Atrissi added.

“We need a lot of time to change this culture of resentment, through deliberate steps that contribute to eliminating provocation.”

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