MTV Lebanon has been slammed for releasing this ‘deepfake’ video of victims of the 2020 Beirut Port explosion ahead of the first anniversary of the tragedy that killed over 200 people.
The video was shared on social media by MTV Lebanon on 27th July, ahead of the anniversary on 4th August.
The Beirut Port explosion, caused by the detonation of a large amount of ammonium nitrate in storage, killed at least 207 people, injured over 7,000, and left over 300,000 people without homes.
On Wednesday, the government announced that 4th August would be a national day of mourning.
To commemorate the anniversary, MTV Lebanon shared the ‘deepfake’ video, featuring images of digitally-altered victims, on social media with the hashtag ‘it has been a year, time is up’.
The video was titled ‘A Letter to the Lebanese Judiciary” and called on the authorities to deliver justice for the families.
In the footage, two victims of the port blast, Amin Al-Zahed and Ralph Mallahi, are seen talking to the camera alongside images of the explosion.
In one scene, a digitally-altered image of deceased Al-Zahed says to the camera: “Our bodies are free, but our souls are still tormented.”
After being shared online, many netizens and Lebanese celebrities called the video “inappropriate” and “traumatising”.
Mouin Jaber, who co-presents the popular podcast ‘Sarde After Dinner’, said: “It is dystopian. It is emotional manipulation and blackmail taken to a whole other level.
“You’d understand deepfaking someone who passed away a long time ago, such as seeing an (Albert) Einstein deepfake explaining relativity at a museum, but this is something else.
“One cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that every single TV station in Lebanon is either backed by a political party, or subject to the highest bidder. And that makes you question the intent of those deepfakes, which put me in an even more uncomfortable position than I want to admit.”
According to reports, some people have even reported the MTV video for causing offence.
Local activist Hana Fakhoury said: “They’re talking about dead people. They’re putting words in dead people’s mouths.
“The video is going to cause pain. It’s not really going to change anything. It’s not like the (Lebanese) judiciary is going to wake up now and realise that they need to start working.”