Do not let Lebanese Newspapers Die
The Arabic Newspaper As-Safir closed its doors last week. An-Nahar could follow in its footsteps. It is no surprise that people are getting their news online much quicker and for free through the internet these days. It isn’t just sad to see them go.
In North Korea and other oppressive regimes there are no media outlets except state operated ones. This means all the news entering the country is manipulated and controlled by the government in power. We rely on the internet for all our news from around the world. If someone at the government level wants to stop the internet use, it would be so easy to disconnect us all. I am not saying this will happen here in Lebanon.
The printed word can be recorded, can be disseminated, and can be preserved for the present and the future. The entire new tech can disappear by the touch of a button. This alarming news is more than just the internet taking over an obsolete printing medium of communication.
This little country has proudly had one of the earliest and most prolific liberal media publications since 1900’s. In Lebanon according to Wikipedia (*), Lebanon boasted of having 39 newspapers and 137 periodicals and journals published in three languages. In the sixties it had close to a hundred publications and more than 250 printing presses. Lebanon was a haven for free liberal publication in the Arab World. Think of that for a minute.
Now As-Safir is closed and others may follow, what happens to Lebanon’s press? Should we let it die? What happens to Lebanon freedom to express itself throughout the Middle East? I think we should look at the closing of these newspapers and publishing houses as a threat to our freedom of expression and our freedom to spread our views across the world. We can easily have both internet and newspapers, and not have to let one die out.
From now on big foreign newspapers will take precedence in our daily lives. Whatever local newspaper left, it will have to rely heavily in subsidies that will most probably come from private local or foreign donors. These donors will manipulate these publications according to their view points. What will we be left with is a threat to our freedom of expression? The little freedom that we all have to express ourselves will dwindle even more. Is this what you want?
I think we must all make it a duty to support our local Arabic newspapers. As each one of us stands up in every function when we hear the National Anthem, we all must buy our local newspapers. We must not let another Lebanese newspaper die. In fact we should create more. Nobody will go broke if they buy a local newspaper, but if our local newspapers cease to exist, we will all suffer.
In the meantime, local newspapers should adapt and change to collaborate with the internet in spreading the news. Follow the example of the big newspapers in the world how they are coping with the change and copy them. Find other news angles; create new ways of presenting the news. Allow the journalists to express themselves in ways they couldn’t do before. Perhaps the way the news were presented in local newspapers, is not interesting to the readers. So ask them for their suggestions, brainstorm, and be open to new and better journalism.
Closing As-Safir is not like closing of a restaurant, or a store. It threatens the core of our values, our freedom of expression. Lebanon’s present day image of a being open and free will diminish. You and the next generations would have lost what it took so many Lebanese in the past to achieve. Lebanon was a beacon of light in this part of the world. By all means let us all help keep it that way.