Lebanon's tourism minister is considering suing the makers of the hit US TV series Homeland over the way Beirut is portrayed.
In a scene from the latest episode screened in the UK, a street in the Lebanese capital is shown swarming with militants carrying assault weapons as a jeep pulls up carrying the world's No 1 jihadi to a meeting with top Hezbollah commanders.
Meanwhile US snipers lurk on a rooftop. The scene is actually filmed in Israel.
Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud told The Associated Press that he is so upset about the portrayal of Beirut that he is considering a lawsuit. "The information minister is studying media laws to see what can be done," he said.
Mr Abboud pointed to the scene with the snipers. Hamra Street in West Beirut is portrayed as a hotbed of violence, but it is actually a lively neighbourhood packed with cafes, book shops and pubs.
"It showed Hamra Street with militia roaming in it. This does not reflect reality," he said. "It was not filmed in Beirut and does not portray the real image of Beirut." Twentieth Century Fox Television refused to comment.
Homeland, based on the Israeli series Prisoners of War, is about a US Marine named Nick Brody who was a POW for years in the Middle East. The government and the public see Brody as a war hero, but a CIA operative played by Claire Danes believes he was turned by the enemy and is now a threat to the US.
The second season began last month, and some of the urban scenes are shot in Tel Aviv, the Israeli metropolis about 150 miles south of Beirut. Beirut itself has developed impressively in the two decades since its 15-year civil war ended. But the portrayal of Lebanon as swarming with guns is hardly unreasonable. The country has dozens of armed militias and the biggest militia of all, Iranian-backed Hezbollah, has gained so much power and influence over the years that it is now part of the government.
Lebanon's leading LBC TV carried a report on the controversy, saying the show disparages Arabs and that its setting in Israel is "a double insult."
But Ariel Kolitz, a Tel Aviv businessman who was a childhood friend of Gideon Raff, the Israeli co-creator of Homeland, said that it was not as if the production team had the option of shooting in Beirut, where Raff and other Israelis involved are not permitted to visit and where they could be in danger. "It's a lot simpler to shoot here," he said. "That's it."
www.newscorp.com/management/20centfoxtv.html (20th Century Fox Television)