Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The financial crisis at An-Nahar

Al-Akhbar had a scoop the other day: about a major financial crisis at An-Nahar (the Lebanese racist, sectarian Christian, right-wing, anti-Syrian (people), anti-Palestinian (people) newspaper in Lebanon. An-Nahar was from the 1960s to 1975 the major newspaper of Lebanon and partly of the Arab world. I always hated the paper: but in the 1960s and early 1970s, it hosted many talents and its political agenda (representing the right-wing agenda of its own, Ghassan Tuwayni who insisted over the years that he taught my father at AUB and I would try to convince him to no avail that my father studied at Cairo University in the 1940s) was more disguised at the time. It was original and inventive and Tuwayni new how to copy the success of American journalism (the good and the bad) which he observed when he went to school in the US. The paper has summarily fired some 50 staffers, including Ilyas Khuri (editor of its cultural supplement which basically is a right-wing platform that considers that human rights violations only occur in Syria in the whole Arab world and that all Arab countries--except Syria--has full respect for human rights) and George Nasif (who used to be a critic of Arab regimes and a champion of the Palestinian cause). Some are speculating that those fired were expelled for their political sympathies. I don't buy that because those fired have not deviated one iota from the right-wing, pro-Lebanese Forces line of the paper in recent years. Of course the demise of An-Nahar has been gradual (only foreign correspondents in Lebanon with no knowledge of Arabic still think that it is still a successful newspaper because of its designer name and its advertisements). They don't know that there is a monopoly in Lebanon: so that the company that runs distributions of newspapers and the company that sells ads to newspapers is owned by a most right-wing Lebanese Forces supporter, Antoine Shuwayri, and he insists on giving most ads to An-Nahar. But you may take a look Alexa ranking here and see that Al-Akhbar (which is only three years old) has quickly surpassed An-Nahar in ranking--and An-Nahar is obsessed with race and prestige ranking . Here, Al-Akhbar CEO, Ibrahim Amin, discusses the crisis and its causes. An-Nahar lost its leadership and its mission: and most importantly, it no more has columnists that people follow. One publisher (rival of An-Nahar) told me in Beirut 4 years ago: "I feel sorry for An-Nahar. The grandfather is senile and the granddaughter is dumb. " But An-Nahar has played a most sinister role in Lebanese politics and culture, and is responsibly at least partly for the spread of the Lebanonese national idea, with all its myths and fabrications. Yesterday, AlJazeera ran a report on this story. It will grow.