‘Somewhere in the towering General Security building in Beirut is a man with a black marker who routinely crosses out any mention of Israel in foreign publications. (Esteez, if you are reading this: we would love to interview you some day.) There is also a special unit whose job it is to attend every single theater premiere. (The Lebanese know never to go to the premiere – it is the toned-down version for the state censors.) But that’s about it for censorship in Lebanon. It is the reason why we are building the Menassat.com website here and not in, say, Damascus – where we would surely be shut down -, or in Baghdad – where we would likely be shot down.’
Menassat is ‘a brand-new website with a network of correspondents throughout the Arab world. Our modest mission: to defend press freedom and freedom of expression wherever we can find it. Our goal is to promote good journalism in the region by providing a platform for Arab journalism as well as specific tools to empower Arab journalists’ –and this applied to all 22 Arab countries of the MENA-region (Middle East/North Africa). The name Menassat means “forums” or “platforms”. All content on the site is available in both English and Arabic, and the first articles to appear deal with Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas, chief editor of the independent Egyptian daily al-Dustur, Ibrahim Issa, a media conference in Beirut organized by the new ‘opposition’ newspaper al-Akhbar to celebrate its first anniversary, and this year’s ramadan musalsals (TV series). The tone and style of the site are refreshingly sarcastic and open. A promising beginning for what looks to be an interesting new initiative. As Menassat’s editor in chief Nidal Ayoub phrases their motto: ‘The word wounds in order to heal’. Check it out.