Press and government

(Updated 04/08: link to Menassat below)

A draft ministerial statement has finally, after three weeks, been worked out in a committee, and is to be discussed and (possibly) adopted by the new government next week. The statement is to outline the general policies the new government will (supposedly) adhere to. The main point of contention is clause 26, which is: ‘(…) made up of an intro and three sub clauses. The intro stated that “in line with the state responsibility in safeguarding Lebanon’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity in line with the constitution, the government emphasizes on:
Sub-Clause one: “The right of Lebanon, its people army and resistance, to liberate or recover the occupied Shebaa Farms, Kfarshouba Hills and the Lebanese sector of the Ghajar village; and defend Lebanon against any aggression and adhere to its right in its waters by all legitimate and available means.”
Sub-Clause 2: “The government adheres to UNSCR 1701 and all its requirements.”
Sub-Clause 3: “Proceeding to work out a comprehensive national strategy to protect Lebanon and defend it, to be agreed on during dialogue sponsored by the president of the republic with the participation of the Arab League after the government wins a vote of confidence.”
Information Minister Tareq Mitri told reporters late Friday some ministers tried to add to the clause the phrase “this right is to be practiced under the state wing” but it was not agreed on.’

A rare insightful article on the Arabic-language printed press in Lebanon is featured in the UAE’s ‘The National’ here. It mainly focuses on the country’s newest (and only ‘non-sectarian’) al-Akhbar, but also provides more general information of note, which goes some way in implying the financial support of the various papers by sectarian/political sponsors:‘Bijjani estimates that in 1998, 150,000 newspapers were sold daily in Lebanon; by now the figure has dropped to 80,000. But Al Balad, which represents 30,000 of those copies, should not count, she says, because it was initially given away for free. “People pick it up the way they pick up a lottery ticket, not the newspaper.” Right now, Bijjani says, As Safir and An Nahar distribute some 15,000 and 12,000 copies; Al Akhbar has a circulation that varies between 8,000 and 11,000. Neither An Nahar nor As Safir would divulge their own circulation figures, common practice in the Arab world. But Talal Salman, the owner of As Safir, said that today “aggregate circulation for in Lebanon is the lowest in its history, lower than the figure for a single successful newspaper in the past.”’
Incidentally, the Menassat website today (4th of august) publishes another article on Al Akhbar well worth reading: ‘But it is not only on the Lebanese scene that the Al-Akhbar is hoping to compete; the next project is to go pan-Arab and start publishing from Qatar in order to reach the Gulf countries. An agreement has been made in principle and Al-Akhbar will enjoy the same criteria when it comes to freedom of expression as the satellite television Al-Jazeera. (Read: You can talk about anything you want as long as you do not say anything wrong about Qatar’s ruling family.)  (…) What is certain is that the new format of Al-Akhbar represents a rich addition to the Arab written press scene. The Al-Akhbar adventure will perhaps inspire other Arab newspapers to try new and dynamic formats both in terms of esthetics and content (reporting on social issues, civil society, and campaigning for civil and political rights).’

IRIN meanwhile reports on the plight of some 6000 families displaced by the ongoing heavy fighting in Tripoli: Officials say up to 6,000 families have been displaced, but as of 30 July only those 700 Sunni families from Bab al-Tabbaneh who have found shelter in schools have been formally registered. These families are receiving food and medical support from the Sunni Future Movement of parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri. (…) Nashabi said no Allawi families from Jebel Mohsen had sought shelter in any of the schools opened by the Future-dominated Tripoli municipality. “They would feel threatened if they came here, so they prefer to go to Akkar or to Syria,” he said.
The violence in Tripoli pits Jebel Mohsen’s Allawis, who support the Hezbollah-led opposition and have ties to the Allawi ruling class in Syria, against Bab Tabbaneh’s Sunnis, who are backed by the Sunni-majority anti-Syrian March 14 coalition. The army has deployed in both neighbourhoods but has been unable to force either side to maintain a cease-fire.’

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