Violating the Privacy and Dignity of “Suspected” Gay Men in Lebanon

I would like to start off by saying that I am not a journalist.  However, I do know that there are some common practices in journalism involving privacy.  Some investigative journalists use hidden camera footage to raise awareness of issues of vital public interest when there is no other means of obtaining information about them.  The faces of individuals shown in such footage are usually blurred.  The reason for this is simple: the individuals do not know they are being filmed and thus have no way of giving their permission to have their faces broadcasted (unless asked after the fact).

This is a common practice in Lebanon, too.  Murr TV (MTV), a Lebanese television station, aired a show on prostitution in Lebanon on the program Tahkik (Investigation) in 2010.  Some individuals (a woman working at a “massage” parlor, prostitutes and pimps at a nightclub, etc.) had their faces blurred since they were not aware of being filmed.

Why is it that the same practice is not being followed by another show on the SAME station?  It seems that Joe Maalouf and his staff on the MTV Lebanon show Enta Horr (“You Are Free”) are either unaware of or are purposely ignoring journalistic standards about privacy.

Joe Maalouf, on May 8th and June 26th, filmed episodes of Enta Horr at cinemas which screen pornography and are known to be frequented by gay men.

No one seemed to think it necessary to protect the identities of the men who were unaware of being filmed.  Though the faces of the men in the June 26th episode were not as clearly visible as those in the May 8th episode, it was obvious that not a single face was blurred.  It does not matter if the men were casually discussing politics or engaging in sexual acts.  They are human beings and deserved to be treated as such.  Showing those men’s faces on Lebanese national television not only exposes them to all of Lebanon, but also to the world as these shows are uploaded online.

Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code prohibits “unnatural” sexual intercourse and can be used to jail those who are “suspected” of homosexuality.  These men were publicly outed, humiliated, and put at risk of being jailed due to Article 534 by a show supposedly run and staffed by “journalists.”

On July 28th, 2012, thirty-six men were arrested during a raid of a different pornographic cinema.  They were jailed and subjected to horrific “tests” to “prove” that they are indeed homosexual.  The tests themselves are barbaric acts of torture.

We cannot say that the May 8th and June 26th episodes are related to the July 28th raid.  We do not know if any of the men who were filmed for these two episodes have ever frequented the other cinema.  The events may be completely and utterly independent.

That does not matter.

What we do know is that the actions of Joe Maalouf, Enta Horr, and MTV Lebanon clearly tell the world that men suspected of being homosexual do not “deserve” to be treated as humans since their faces were not blurred.  Since these men do not “deserve” privacy, why should we be surprised if other men suspected of being homosexual do not “deserve” to be treated with respect and dignity while being jailed for “breaking” the law?

But we are horrified.  We are outraged.  Journalists, bloggers, and social media sites are overflowing with shock and anger at MTV Lebanon and the horrific treatment of the men at Maghfar Hbeish (Hbeish Jail).

What about Joe Maalouf’s reaction?  I will let his words speak for themselves.  When asked by the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar about how he felt about his show’s episodes about the pornographic cinemas, he stated: “I am proud of this and I will not apologize for it.  Violating public morality is one thing and sexual freedom is another.”

No, Mr. Maalouf, you should not be proud and neither are we.

Anonymous is a graduate student in psychology.

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