Al-Mahatta: Hezbollah’s propaganda machine in digital realm


Al-Mahatta, a YouTube channel, mostly confrontational and accusatory – based in Lebanon, is emerging as a prominent digital mouthpiece for the jihadist group Hezbollah. While it presents itself as an independent source of journalism, closer examination reveals its close ties to Hezbollah’s agenda and its affiliation with the leftist newspaper Al-Akhbar. This YouTube channel aims to consolidate its influence by gaining a broader digital audience while continuing to cater to its well-established constituency in the country.

First of all, for a better understanding about Al-Mahatta, it is necessary to explore identity and background of Al-Akhbar, which was conceived in the aftermath of the Israel-Hezbollah war in 2006. To this day, Al-Akhbar maintains anti-Israel, anti-US and anti-West policy. Initially it succeeding its real face under the garb of intellectual left-wing outlet. But eventually it came up as a full-fledged platform of Lebanese militancy outfit Hezbollah. This newspaper aligns closely with Hezbollah’s present-day political and economic aspirations. So apparent is this dynamic that, for some, Al Akhbar serves as a prominent example of how Hezbollah successfully hijacked the Lebanese Left, appropriating its anti-neoliberal and long-standing anti-Israel discourse.

By utilizing YouTube and targeting a wider digital audience, Al-Mahatta aims to consolidate its influence and cater to its established support base in Lebanon.

The Origins and Agenda of Al-Mahatta: To understand Al-Mahatta, we must delve into the origins of its precursor, Al-Akhbar. Born out of an alliance between Hezbollah and the Lebanese left in response to the Israel-Hezbollah war in 2006, Al-Akhbar initially maintained some intellectual independence.

However, it gradually transformed into a platform for Hezbollah’s rhetoric, aligning closely with the group’s political and economic aspirations. Al-Akhbar’s decline in popularity in recent years can be attributed to its stance against the 2011 Syrian uprising and the 2019 October mass protests in Lebanon.

Al-Mahatta originates from this journalistic milieu, with two principal founders, Radwan Mortada and Hasan Illaik, who have strong ties to Al-Akhbar. They replicate and refine the newspaper’s approach, focusing on topics that serve Hezbollah’s geopolitical and strategic interests. By criticizing Hezbollah’s opponents, Lebanese security forces, the judiciary, and the media, Al-Mahatta consistently rebukes US policies in Lebanon, echoing Al-Akhbar’s anti-U.S. editorial agenda.

Topics covered by Al-Mahatta

Al-Mahatta frequently attacks Lebanese military and security institutions while promoting Hezbollah’s preferred narrative. The channel highlights the financial support these institutions receive from the United States, targeting figures such as Commander General Joseph Aoun, who is accused of prioritizing US foreign policy interests. Al-Mahatta also critiques the military judiciary’s handling of cases related to spying for Israel and the Beirut port explosion.

The Judiciary: Al-Mahatta often criticizes the Lebanese judiciary, except for a few judges believed to be biased towards Hezbollah. Accusations are made that the judiciary, including the judicial police, is funded and controlled by the United States. Judge Tarek Bitar, who pressed charges against politicians aligned with Hezbollah, faces significant criticism and accusations of political bias.

Al-Mahatta produced episodes that propagate Hezbollah’s perspective on the US-brokered maritime border agreement between Israel and Lebanon. The channel ridicules the narratives of other participants, portraying the agreement as a victory for Hezbollah. The United States’ involvement is heavily disparaged, and militaristic language is employed to emphasize Hezbollah’s strength and potential conflict with Israel.

While journalism serves as a vital oversight mechanism, holding institutions accountable, Al-Mahatta’s targeting of Lebanon’s national institutions, coupled with its pro-Hezbollah propaganda, does not serve this purpose. Instead, it appears to be a malicious media campaign aimed at tarnishing the image of state institutions in Lebanon. By demonizing the Lebanese military and security apparatus and promoting Hezbollah’s narrative, Al-Mahatta seeks to establish Hezbollah’s moral superiority in Lebanon’s complex security dynamics.

Al-Mahatta operates as Hezbollah’s propaganda machine in the digital realm, leveraging its affiliation with Al-Akhbar and utilizing YouTube to consolidate influence and cater to its support base. It seeks to portray Hezbollah’s moral superiority within the complex security dynamics in Lebanon, which involve the coexistence between Hezbollah, the LAF, and Lebanese security forces.

Policymakers should be wary of such propaganda campaigns disguised as “alternative” news outlets, as they can significantly impact decision-making processes.


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