Lebanon faces critical financial issues for state, local media organizations

Published August 3rd, 2016 - 06:00 GMT
Will Lebanon have to press "pause" on its media output? (Shutterstock)
Will Lebanon have to press "pause" on its media output? (Shutterstock)

Information Minister Ramzi Joreige Tuesday said he was preparing to take measures to save Lebanon’s only state-run television channel and private newspapers which have been at risk of shutting due to a recent financial crisis.

Joreige said he was working “on a strategy in the television station [Tele Liban] by appointing a new board of directors which will in turn decide on a new strategy, because the channel’s situation is difficult.”

The minister made his comments in a joint press conference with Hezbollah MP Hasan Fadlallah after a telecommunications committee meeting, which the latter heads.

Fadlallah echoed Joreige’s remarks on Tele Liban’s deteriorating situation, especially on the administrative level, adding that political disputes were hindering the appointment of a new management board.

“We want this television station to be a mouthpiece for the Lebanese state, and for everything associated with it to be fine,” he said, adding that a special meeting to discuss Tele Liban was scheduled for Aug. 29.

Tele Liban was originally launched in 1959, making it the country’s oldest television station. It was merged with two privately-owned stations, CLT and Télé Orient, in November 1976.

Turning to the country’s newspapers, most of which have been living a chronic financial crisis, Joreige and Fadlallah both spoke of a draft law the former official was preparing that would allow the state to financially support these companies.

“It is unacceptable that newspapers stop (publishing) in Lebanon. This (type of) press is in a severe crisis due to the economic crisis, and we have proposed ... to help newspapers through some incentives and exemptions, and the draft law was referred to the Finance Ministry,” Joreige said.

The prominent As-Safir newspaper was set to cease operations at the end of March this year after more than four decades, however the paper received a financial lifeline.

Not many details were given about the rescue plan.

Lebanon, which enjoys the most press and media freedom in the Arab world, has several newspapers ranging in Arabic, French, English and Armenian. More than 10 of those are published daily.

Separately, Joreige said Nilesat has voiced its readiness to start operating again in Lebanon, months after the Arab satellite provider stopped broadcasting from the country.

In April, Nilesat’s chairman Ahmad Anis sent a letter to Joreige saying that his company was keen on continuing to broadcast from the Mount Lebanon area of Jouret al-Ballout after it stopped broadcasting, due to what it said was the expiry of its contract with the Lebanese government.

Egyptian Nilesat had pulled Hezbollah channel Al-Manar only a few days earlier, but other Lebanese channels could still be viewed despite the announcement.

The move to ban Al-Manar came at the height of the diplomatic crisis between Lebanon and the Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia. Egypt is Riyadh's ally.

Joreige also announced that his ministry and the telecoms committee were putting the final touches on a new media law.

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