The editor-in-chief of a Lebanese newspaper considered close to Syria and the Hezbollah movement has admitted to receiving financial “assistance” from the head of Lebanese internal security service, Col. Wissam al-Hassan, who is also close to former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, in exchange for “balanced” reporting on Lebanon’s internal politics.
In a recent op-ed in Diyar newspaper, Charles Ayoub admitted that “there was an agreement between Col. Wisan al-Hasan and Diyar.”
“Of course Col. al-Hasan represents Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri ... and according to the deal, Diyar would play a balanced role in the internal politics would be a free publication.”
Ayoub added that despite that his paper honored its commitment, “Col. Al-Hasan suddenly and without prior notice suspended the assistance and claimed that the financial situation of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri was difficult.”
But the real reason why Col. al-Hasan suspended the funding for Diyar, according to Ayoub, was a sense that the paper’s allies in Syria were weakened by the uprising there.
Ayoub’s revelations have raised questions about the state of journalism and journalists in a country where the media is deeply polarized across ideological and religious lines.
Al Arabiya English made several attempts to reach Ayoub by phone for comment but did not meet with success.
Magda Abu-Fadil, director of Media Unlimited, a group founded in Lebanon seeking to promote and maintain high standards for professional journalists in the Middle East and North Africa, told Al Arabiya English in email statements: “It’s not uncommon for Lebanese journalists to accept money and gifts from foreign governments, local politicians, business people or whoever.
“There's a long tradition of it that goes back decades,” she added, stressing that such practices were against all acceptable international standards of media ethics.
Abu-Fadil said Ayoub was “no exception” and that she always takes what he says and does “with a big grain of salt.” “His reputation and track record aren’t exactly stellar, as per colleagues who’ve worked with him and who'll remain nameless.”
“Worst of all is when a publisher and/or editor-in-chief admits to accepting compensation for writing favorably about anyone. It’s like admitting you killed someone. Your credibility flies out the window in a second.”
But she explained that similar practices that do not take into account the conflict of interests exist in other Arab countries and worldwide as well.
“I saw political money at play when I covered Washington for many years, including the White House, State Department, Pentagon, Capitol Hill, think tanks, corporations, lobbyists, and more.
“This is not just a Lebanese issue. But the media environment in Lebanon lends itself to such misconduct as it's always been very politicized and journalists in general are woefully underpaid so they often have to juggle several jobs to keep afloat financially and bribes help pay the bills,” said Abu-Fadil.
“That’s definitely no excuse for being ‘on the take’ and editors, publishers, producers and other top media figures set a terrible example when they publish or broadcast information in return for financial rewards.”