Monday, February 6, 2012

MTV comes under attack for airing racially charged program

The Daily Star on February 06, 2012, by Stephen Dockery
With additional reporting by Dana Khraiche

 BEIRUT: Racially charged programing targeting migrant domestic workers has critics leveling new charges of racism at the popular but controversial Murr Television station.

In a recent skit on the station’s comedy program ‘Ktir Salbe,’ a couple asks an agent for a new maid with qualifications such as “servant,”
“thief” and “stupid.” After the agent said he couldn’t provide such a maid, the skit’s punch line came when the couple implied that all the maids were exactly like that.

Migrant worker advocacy groups and human rights advocates immediately panned the skit as insensitive and cruel and a symptom of the lack of action on major human rights abuses of tens of thousands of immigrant workers.

“Murr TV, yet again crossed ethical and moral red lines. Their comedy show, ‘Ktir Salbe’ produced a trashy sexually explicit video in which migrant domestic workers are dehumanized and objectified,” wrote the blog Ethiopian Suicides.

Other websites and NGOs echoed similar sentiments, saying the station is reinforcing stereotypes of a community that is already victimized.

In October MTV was under the spotlight after airing a controversial report that blamed migrant workers for a spike in crime in Bourj Hammoud.

Officials at MTV entirely reject the accusations of racism and say the station was just raising awareness of how domestic workers are treated.

“We have proven in our daily work that we are very far from racism,” said Ghayath Yazbeck, head of the station’s news department.

Yazbeck said MTV privileges human rights concerns but the latest scandal suggest that the public feels differently.

Lebanese blogger Mustapha Hamoui, who writes at the blog Beirut Spring, has suggested viewers “actively shame and boycott” the station.

While Hamoui cautioned against the blanket use of the term ‘racist,’ he said it was important to have a broad discussion about the perceptions of migrant domestic workers in the country.

“I do not condone calls to ‘Shut down MTV’ or the blanket use of the word ‘racist’ because I believe this is a delicate subject,” said Hamoui.

The latest uproar over MTV’s programing comes against a larger debate that has garnering lots of international attention but little national action to protect the migrant worker community.

Tens of thousands of women travel to Lebanon for employment but many are shocked to find low wages, unregulated working conditions, verbal, physical and sexual abuse behind closed doors.
There are monthly reports of workers who commit suicide, are beaten or die under suspicious circumstances.

Nepal, the Philippines and Ethiopia have prohibited their citizens from working in Lebanon until labor conditions for migrant workers improve.

Critics of the MTV incident say the station’s insensitivity makes a mockery of the workers’ terrible conditions.

“They [MTV] think they are pointing the finger at what is wrong with society, oblivious to the fact that they are a very clear reflection of everything that is wrong with Lebanese society,” wrote The Anti-racism Movement on their Web page.

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