Lebanon: TV station takes religious film off air after online protest

19 July 2017

Lebanese TV station MTV stopped broadcasting a film about Jesus' life, which was set to air Easter weekend, due to online protests and insults from viewers.

On 14 April 2017, Lebanese TV station MTV stopped the broadcast of a film about the life of Jesus, which was set to air Easter weekend, due to online protests and insults from viewers, reported Alquds on 18 April 2017.

The film, entitled ‘Jesus’, was intended to tell the story of Jesus in multiple parts; however, after the airing of the first part on Good Friday, the subsequent parts set to the air over the rest of Easter weekend were not aired, reported Al-Quds Al-Arabi on 18 April 2017.

“The release of the film ‘Jesus’ on Friday gave rise to many negative reactions on social media that the channel’s management followed with interest. MTV recalls that it sent this film, along with all other programmes during Easter, to the Catholic Information Centre, which approved their broadcasting, and the channel has fulfilled its moral and professional duties in this regard, before broadcasting these programs,” MTV said in a 15 April statement.

The Catholic Information Centre confirmed that it approved the broadcast of the film previously sent by MTV, but decided to stop broadcasting following complaints received by viewers. The centre works with the Lebanese Committee for Christian Publications in Arabic, Vatican Radio and other religious agencies to produce, distribute or advise on religious media and news.

The film was produced by the Italian TV Network RAI and the French public channel France 2, as well as European Catholic channels, reported L’Orient Le Jour on 15 April 2017.

Banned for religious reasons
Films in Lebanon have often been banned for a variety of religious or political reasons.

In February 2017, Lebanese censors objected to 12 minutes in the Egyptian film ‘Mawlana’ (Preacher), saying it “could incite sectarian strife and provoke conflict between different religions” and requested the 12 minutes be removed.

In the same month, a Druze cleric was blacked out in the film ‘Ismaii’ (Listen) as the appearance of the character angered some in religious circles, leading to objections, prompting the director to censor his own film.

Film is not the only art form that has come under the scrutiny of religious circles in the country.

In April 2016, Lebanese censors banned Bachar Mar-Khalife’s song ‘Kyrie Eleison’ because it “contains offenses to God as the singer talked to God in the song saying, ‘have mercy on us and leave us alone’”.

In January 2016, over 20 of Michel Elefteriades’ sculptures have been seized by Lebanese authorities on the grounds that they could be interpreted as Satanist symbols.

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