Stop the press, Lebanon’s media needs a revamp
This month, the world celebrated World Press Freedom Day, on May 3, and Lebanon celebrated Martyrs of the Press Day
This month, the world celebrated World Press Freedom Day, on May 3, and Lebanon celebrated Martyrs of the Press Day on May 6. On both occasions, pretentious speeches on the role of journalism and media increase. In today’s world, every citizen is a journalist as many activists have more journalistic curiosity than those directly involved in the field and sometimes they publish news faster than media outlets thanks to modern social networking tools.
Journalism today has become a profession and an industry. What distinguishes it is that it produces a public opinion, or alleges that or tries to do that. Such a role is difficult to play in the era of deep-rooted divisions.
Journalism in Lebanon is a national industry that distinguished the country for a long time and contributed to its fame. However, ever since the civil war, the Lebanese press has suffered from crises regarding freedoms and financing. These crises threaten journalism’s future, or at least the fame it gained thanks to Lebanese journalism’s professionalism, role, efficiency and wide reach. Although laws are old and need to be amended, they are not behind the regression of journalism in Lebanon. The real problem lies in the divisions controlling the press and its employees. This is in addition to dividing quotas as the cabinet has previously distributed radio and television channels’ licenses to parties and sects. This made media outlets – whether audio or audiovisual – and their employees captives of the political powers in control. Keep in mind that these powers don’t only settle with politically directing them but also organize campaigns dividing the Lebanese public. These divisions have led the Lebanese press to lose much of its credibility and freedom. Journalism in Lebanon thus needs to be reconsidered and real thought is needed on how to address its role and future.
Indispensable to achieve democracy
On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, United Nations officials confirmed that new and traditional free media outlets are indispensable to achieve democracy, develop and make sound judgments. They urged governments, societies and individuals to strongly defend this essential right considering it’s a decisive factor to develop. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said: “Freedom of expression, independent media and universal access to knowledge will fortify our efforts to achieve lasting results for people and the planet.”
Journalism in Lebanon is a national industry that distinguished the country for a long time and contributed to its fameNayla Tueni
This year’s World Press Freedom Day must be an opportunity to celebrate this freedom’s basic principles and must be an occasion to commend journalists who lost their lives while performing their duties. This would help emphasize the importance of media on the level of development, and it would also shed light on the importance of journalists’ safety, sovereignty of law and sustainability and integrity of the press.
Lebanese press is currently at a fateful crossroad – a crossroad that doesn’t only concern the Lebanese press but one that also concerns all those who consider this press a legacy and necessity. The state must protect the press industry because it doesn’t have the ability to compete with institutions’ and journalists’ unstable financial conditions.
Lebanon is a pioneer of freedom and it can continue to be as such. Its press can continue to be a message and we can work to prevent its transformation into a profession only practiced to make a living or transformation into a means for pornographic marketing. But this cannot happen unless the government looks after press institutions. The government must also consider these institutions as basic pillars of the state and must support their continuity. It’s time that syndicates perform their real role and that the information ministry performs a positive influential and efficient role – even if just for once. Instead of wasting its time inventing new laws that act as a knockout to the entire Lebanese press, the ministry must work with media figures to take all measures necessary for maintaining the freedom of the press.
This article was first published in al-Nahar on May 14, 2014.
Nayla Tueni is one of the few elected female politicians in Lebanon and of the two youngest. She became a member of parliament in 2009 and following the assassination of her father, Gebran, she is currently a member of the board and Deputy General Manager of Lebanon’s leading daily, Annahar. Prior to her political career, Nayla had trained, written in and managed various sections of Annahar, where she currently has a regular column. She can be followed on Twitter @NaylaTueni