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After four decades, Lebanon’s As-Safir newspaper due to shut down

The daily paper, which is headquartered in Lebanon’s capital of Beirut, employs 140 members as part of the team

Tarek Ali Ahmad

Published: Updated:

Lebanon’s As-Safir newspaper has announced on Wednesday that it will cease it print and online publication at the end of March due to financial troubles - ending a 40-year run in the news business.

The newspaper tweeted early Thursday morning thanking “everyone who supported and shared their memories” with the paper. The Arabic hashtag “#HonoringAsSafir” was the highest trending topic on Twitter on Thursday.

The daily paper, which is headquartered in Lebanon’s capital of Beirut, employs 140 members as part of the team. Editor-in-chief Talal Salman broke the news of its foreclosure on Wednesday, according to daily English-language newspaper The Daily Star.

As-Safir columnist George Alam spoke to Al Arabiya English stating that declining worth of the newspaper business models and the decreasing number of readers to newspapers in general are several reasons behind the paper’s demise.

“How do you grasp the reader, who will have to pay 2,000 LL – which can get him a bundle of bread – for a newspaper that doesn’t have news?,” Alam asked.

‘Repetitive news cycle’

“We [Lebanon] are in the midst of a crisis that is linked to all forms of production in the country. Because of the political crisis and its consequences, we have been roped to the regional problems, and the Syrian war in particular,” media analyst Ahmad Ayyash told Al Arabiya English in an earlier interview.

“This has really placed an economic barrier on us, a country that is still traditionally and nonetheless dependent on this [Arab] world.”

Politics and the instability in the country have also played a significant role in the closure of newspapers such as As-Safir, which translates to ‘The Ambassador' which was established in 1974.

“For the past two years we’ve been reporting on the same thing: that there’s no president in Lebanon. The news is getting repetitive and nothing’s new. This is affecting the overall news coverage in the country,” Alam said. This, the anaylyst told Al Arbaiya English, is what is ultimately deterring from purchasing newspapers.

Failing to catch up to the digital revolution has taken a blow on Lebanese newspapers, where they lack in funding and content quality.

“They have begun working on an online news site, but this has become extremely competitive. If there is no financial support, no source of revenue, [then it will fail],” the columnist said.

The new generation is more interested in science and practical matters, rather than politics, Alam added, while the average age of the print newspaper reader is 40 and above – “those who have a connection with actually reading the paper rather than just checking the headlines.”

In a news conference on Sunday, Salman postponed the decision to close the newspaper.