10th Dec, 2013 –

Many Bahrainis reacted with surprise to news that Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV had “apologized” to Bahrain for its biased and dishonest coverage of Bahraini affairs over the last three years.

Of course it turned out that Hezbollah hadn’t apologized – Hezbollah never apologizes for anything. However, Hezbollah’s statement rejecting this news was interesting because, rather than denying everything, instead they clarified that their delegation to the Arab States Broadcasting Union had made the apology “without referring to the party leadership”.

This raises the interesting question of why the Hezbollah/Al-Manar delegation felt motivated to apologize and commit itself to “to objectivity in covering Arab news and events and abide by professional standards”.

So does Hezbollah’s retraction of the apology also mean that it withdraws the delegations commitment to “objectivity” and “professional standards”?

This apology has generated a lot of speculation in the Lebanese media, with some interpreting this ambiguous gesture as an attempt by Iran’s new President to undo the damage to Iran’s relationship with its Arab neighbours.

This would seem unlikely, given the confused nature of the apology and its withdrawal. However, the important point is whether we could see a change in tone from Iranian and Hezbollah media outlets.

Will we continue to see fabricated reports about protests which never happened and martyrs who never died? Will we see glorification of violence, sabotage and acts of terrorism? Will we see daily news broadcasts and discussion shows all entirely dedicated to spreading lies about Bahrain, with the aim of stirring up violence and sectarian tensions in the Kingdom?

Bahraini officials came out and accepted this apology, but they also stressed that for this apology to mean anything they will have to see a complete change in the way Bahrain is portrayed in the Iranian media.

If Iran genuinely wants better relations with its neighbours then we welcome this. But we don’t want to hear flowery speeches and ambiguous apologies. We need to see a change in the way Hezbollah and Iran act in the region and an end to sectarian incitement and support for terrorism.

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