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Saudi streaming platform faces backlash over Beirut explosion drama

A view of damaged buildings after a fire at a warehouse with explosives led to massive blasts on 4th August, in Beirut, Lebanon on 17 August 2020. [Enes Canlı - Anadolu Agency]
A view of damaged buildings after a fire at a warehouse with explosives led to massive blasts on 4th August, in Beirut, Lebanon on 17 August 2020. [Enes Canlı - Anadolu Agency]

A Saudi Arabian streaming platform is facing a backlash after releasing a trailer for a drama series depicting the Beirut explosion. Shahid.net, an on-demand service owned by MBC, released the trailer earlier this week and is set to air the first of 15 episodes that make up the series on Saturday.

The series is named 6:07 Beirut after the exact time of the 4 August explosion that killed more than 200 people and injured over 6,500 more. According to the Shahid.net website, the series aims to put a spotlight on the “stories of victims as well as survivors” of the Beirut blast.

The trailer shows scenes of Beirut residents living normal lives before cutting to clips of panic in the chaos and destruction. “On 4 August, where were you?” ask the captions. “Regardless of who you are, where you were, from the injured to the survivors… in the end we were all sacrificed.”

The trailer on the Shahid.net Twitter account was condemned as “insensitive”. One user described the series as “unprofessional, disgusting and inhuman”, adding that the company was “seeking profit out of tragedy and out of people’s suffering. However you interpret it this will never appear to be coming from good intentions. Shahid sucks, you lost at least the Lebanese community by proceeding with this.”

READ: Hezbollah, Amal oppose Lebanon border talks with Israel

Others were less harsh on the Saudi-owned site, saying that the idea for the show is “not bad, but the timing is so, so wrong”.

Another Twitter user pointed that “REAL people actually died and cried and got trauma”, and called on Shahid.net to remove the “disgusting and insensitive” show.

The company responded to the criticism by removing the trailer from Twitter. However, it defended its decision to broadcast the series: “We understand you and we hear you clearly. We want to reassure you that this project was made to shed light on the tragic event that happened to our beloved city Beirut and to Lebanon.”

It added that the series is “meant for the world to hear the stories of those who lost so much and were affected by this tragedy. We heal with art and this is what’s intended. We love you and we understand how you feel. May God be with you and us all.”

The people of Lebanon are still struggling to recover in the aftermath of the explosion, which destroyed large swathes of the capital, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. Investigations into the cause of the blast have failed to reveal any new information. Earlier this week, America’s FBI said that no firm conclusion has been reached about the cause of the explosion.

READ: Fearing US sanctions, Lebanon closes accounts of Syrians linked to Assad regime

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LebanonMiddle EastNewsSaudi Arabia
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