The press in distress

Al-Anwar newspaper's last issue will be on Monday. (The Daily Star photo)

After Al-Anwar newspaper stood the test of time through Lebanon’s worst days, its closure after 60 years is nothing short of tragic, tantamount to a massacre of the print media in a country once a beacon of democracy and freedom of the press in the Middle East.

The vacuum left by losing a publishing house as old as the country’s independence will be deeply felt, but unfortunately Dar Assayad isn’t alone in making such a decision.

All branches of the media now find themselves in dire straits due to dwindling advertising revenue. Yet our press has served the country through thick and thin, and is rightly called “the fourth pillar of authority.”

The print media for decades reflected the culture and glory of Lebanon and its people, and was seen as an oasis of freedom for the rest of the Arab world.

If there is any silver lining, the reaction to Dar Assayad’s closure has helped shed light on just how much our media is suffering. If measures are not taken soon, the country will lose a pillar on which it stands, and its people will be deprived of sober and credible new sources that stand for freedom in an age of deception.

A recent study revealed that, despite the growth of news websites of all colors, online media outlets depend on print media for more than half their content.

While social media is on the verge of becoming more of a menace than a blessing in Lebanon, let us hope the events of the past days will serve as a wake-up call to just how precious our print media is.

Action must be taken to prevent the worst. The strong support of the president is a welcome step, but his ideas, and the constructive proposals of the information minister, should be translated as soon as possible into laws. Parliamentary action will not completely resolve such an acute crisis in the long run, but it can be a turning point, and a springboard to greener pastures.

Our country’s media deserves the support of all, for the benefit of all. A Lebanon without a free press is a Lebanon without a soul.

Many a nation in the region would love to see that flame extinguished, and has tried hard to snuff it out. The challenge is to keep it burning.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 02, 2018, on page 1.




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