Lebanon Loses a Pillar of Independent Journalism
< img src=" https://foreignpolicy.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/lebanon-daily-star-GettyImages-1160297991-e1637249586826.jpg?w=1000" class =" ff-og-image-inserted" > The Daily Star, Lebanon’s earliest English-language paper, has become the current casualty of the nation’s economic disaster, bringing its nearly 70-year run to a close. Blackouts and gas shortages are now regular. As the ranks of independent reporters in Lebanon grow ever thinner, it will only end up being harder to hold the corrupt political class who left the country destitute accountable.
During my 4 years at the Daily Star, both the paper and the country rode a wave of prosperity and optimism. Lebanon saw itself as the next Dubai. Now, it depends upon humanitarian aid.
The paper recruited me in 2000, quickly after I got my bachelor’s degree from the American University of Beirut (AUB) and began a graduate program. I was also modifying Outlook, AUB’s trainee publication. The Daily Star made a point of hunting for skill and launched the professions of a generation of journalists. Kim Ghattas, author of a bestselling book on previous U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, released her earliest posts in the Daily Star. So did Michael Karam, a prominent wine author who now lives in London.
The Daily Star, Lebanon’s oldest English-language paper, has actually become the most recent casualty of the country’s financial meltdown, bringing its almost 70-year run to a close. Blackouts and gas shortages are now regular. As the ranks of independent reporters in Lebanon grow ever thinner, it will just end up being harder to hold the corrupt political class who left the nation destitute accountable.
During my 4 years at the Daily Star, both the paper and the nation rode a wave of prosperity and optimism. Lebanon saw itself as the next Dubai. Now, it depends upon humanitarian help.
The paper hired me in 2000, shortly after I received my bachelor’s degree from the American University of Beirut (AUB) and began a graduate program. I was also editing Outlook, AUB’s trainee publication. The Daily Star made a point of hunting for talent and launched the professions of a generation of reporters. Kim Ghattas, author of a bestselling book on previous U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, released her earliest articles in the Daily Star. So did Michael Karam, a prominent white wine writer who now resides in London.
I wrote my very first story about young doctors, pals from AUB who opened a totally free clinic in the impoverished Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. In Beirut, I talked to Fidel “Fidelito” Ángel Castro Díaz-Balart, son of the Cuban strongman. I reported on the Arab League summit kept in Beirut in 2002 and on border clashes between Hezbollah and Israel. Reporting took me to every corner of Lebanon, a nation house to 18 acknowledged religious sects despite being smaller than Connecticut.
At the dawn of this century, the Daily Star was dreaming huge. Israel had actually just withdrawn its troops from southern Lebanon. There was unprecedented political stability, and with stability came financier self-confidence.
The Daily Star formed a partnership with the International Herald Tribune. Publisher Jamil Mroue managed to kick-start regional editions in Arab countries, such as Syria, Kuwait, and Egypt, which were offered together with the Tribune. Mroue’s aspiration mirrored that of Lebanon’s former larger-than-life prime minister, Rafic Hariri, whose assassination in 2005 sped up the polarization that eventually left the nation’s politics and incapacitated its economy.
Wrongdoers of corruption have actually outlived the Daily Star. While I was at the paper, it exposed an embezzlement scheme at the state-owned Casino du Liban, whose recipients included Jamil al-Sayyed, head of the nation’s domestic security service. Sayyed responded by pestering the paper’s staff, who subsequently got calls from state security inquiring to “check out security offices for a cup of coffee,” a warning shot on the scale of intimidation. Writers who persisted with their troublemaking had their passports confiscated or were detained and questioned for hours at airports whenever traveling. Undercover gatekeeper followed reporters while making themselves noticeable– a scare strategy.
Today, Sayyed is a member of parliament. Recently, the U.S. Treasury Department slapped sanctions on him pursuant to Executive Order 13441, which targets those who contribute to the breakdown of Lebanon’s guideline of law. According to the Treasury Department, he skirted banking guidelines by transferring $120 million to abroad financial investments. “During the 2019 demonstrations, when demonstrators objected outside his house demanding his resignation and calling him corrupt, Sayyed contacted officials to shoot and eliminate the protesters,” according to Treasury Department.
The Daily Star also discovered itself in an unlikely face-off with Dunkin’ Donuts over the question of tolerance for Lebanon’s LGBTQ community. A Dunkin’ shop in Beirut had become a popular hangout for the community’s gay guys, triggering the store to publish a sign saying it was a “family location” and it “scheduled the right” not to sell to any customers it considered to be “dressed wrongly.” I had become deputy managing editor for the Daily Star‘s Lebanon edition at the time, and we released the story on our front page. Although Lebanon is reasonably conservative, Dunkin’ was forced to reverse its choice– however not before ensuring it had canceled its corporate membership to the Daily Star, causing losses on our paper. Cognizant that the Daily Star had their back, the LGBTQ community reciprocated by encouraging fans to register for the paper.
Following Hariri’s assassination and Hezbollah’s consolidation of power behind a democratic exterior, the Daily Star stayed vibrant and became a primary news source for English speakers across the Middle East at a time when other English-language publications in the region were just state-owned mouth pieces. Yet Lebanon’s success dropped as its Ponzi scheme economy started to lose momentum, while Hezbollah’s regional military entanglements kept the nation on a war footing without an end in sight.
Proficient labor emigrated. Financiers lost self-confidence. The Daily Star‘s ability to maintain talent reduced, and its personnel began shrinking. News aggregation and speculation replaced investigative reporting and smartly argued editorials.
This week, after some 30 years because its post-civil war revival, the Daily Star closed down. It had already stopped publishing a print edition, shifting to a web-only format. The paper’s balance sheet had actually been drowning in red ink for a long time. Lebanon, itself, has actually ended up being inhospitable for businesses of any kind thanks to frequent power outages and prohibitively pricey gas. Banks are insolvent. Charge card limits for overseas purchases are $10 a month, which does not cover subscriptions to any global papers.
Of the band of brothers and sisters with whom I operated at Beirut’s Daily Star, only a handful stay in the country. Some have actually remained in journalism or comparable kind of work. Others have actually changed to industries ranging from ceramic production to healthcare.
The paper’s when buzzing workplaces have actually been decreased to archives collecting dust in the dark. Its story is the story of Lebanon, lowered in less than 15 years from an appealing nation to a stopping working state. Couple of countries in the region have Lebanon’s guarantee, however many have its greatest weakness: a state significantly co-opted by armed Iranian proxies who subordinate individuals’s interests to Tehran’s ideology and ambitions. In Iraq, as in Lebanon, they have left in place a Potemkin democracy. In Syria and Yemen, there is no need. Reporters have actually become targets.
Published at Sat, 20 Nov 2021 12:00:45 +0000