Lebanon’s information minister and the heads of various newspapers warned against the ongoing press crisis after a second newspaper shut down on Monday due to financial problems.
Following an urgent meeting with the heads of Lebanese newspapers on Monday evening, Melhem Riachi called for draft laws that would help the press sector.
“In the wake of the current journalism crisis, we decided to refer the draft laws that I previously submitted to the Cabinet to become part of the draft laws sent to Parliament for urgent legislation,” Riachi told reporters during a news conference at the end of the meeting.
He also announced the formation of a committee to follow up on the proposals and that talks would be held with the president, prime minister-designate and the speaker.
“We have set up a follow-up committee to transform project laws into law proposals within 72 hours. The committee will then follow-up on contacts with the President of the Republic, House Speaker, and Prime Minister-designate to convert all the theoretical work to practical one -- to be signed later by 10 deputies. Afterward, Speaker Nabih Berri will be asked to summon MPs for an urgent legislative session to help salvage the print media as soon as possible by means of endorsing these bills,” Riachi explained.
“The priority today is to provide material support to the newspapers and to ensure their continuity,” said the head of the Press Syndicate, Awni al-Kaaki, who was present at the meeting.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “In addition to the draft laws that were presented by the minister of information, a committee was established to prepare a paper with several proposals that will contribute to support the newspapers, to be submitted to the Presidents of the Republic, the Government and Parliament for approval.”
In the same context, President Michel Aoun said he regretted the situation of the press in Lebanon, according to a presidential statement on Monday.
“The press [in Lebanon] was a platform for writers and journalists that made Lebanon a country [that embodies] truth. The freedom of the press formed the basis for public opinion in Lebanon. The press managed to become a judge and a partner in building the country,” he added.
Aoun also expressed solidarity with all the media institutions that had shut down recently, including the members of Dar Assayad, which announced its closure on Monday.