"The Future of the Lebanese Press"
By: Elias Bejjani

(Translated by: Elias Bejjani)
16 January 1998

Once again the media will be our focus this week, in particular, the press. In Lebanon, some of the press is still reliable and respectable, but the majority is not. The press is of interest to the nation because not only does it exert great political influence, but it also touches upon many educational and scientific issues that are vital to the people.

The press must be protected. We must ensure its freedom, and we must also protect it from itself to guarantee professionalism and guard against ethical misconduct. When the press survives on instigation and counterfeiting, and assumes a self-declared judiciary role, it becomes nothing more than a political body that claims it has a monopoly on truth when, in fact, it does not. This kind of press is apt to collapse when those who use it for personal gain and deceitful purposes suddenly disappear.

The press loses its credibility by insisting on using obscenities, false accusations, and coarse language. It also loses credibility when it deliberately and wilfully covers up its clientele's crimes and tries to mask important issues with trivial ones. The press cannot win back its lost credibility by simply pointing out a few wrongdoings. This frivolous attempt will not erase ongoing misconduct from the minds of the Lebanese people.

Bad press is easily recognized by the blind bias it uses when protecting its clientele, it is recognized when flattery and cajoling are used instead of the presentation of fact, and it is recognized when minor virtues are emphasized and major virtues are downplayed. Bad press looks at only the positive attributes of its clients, and the negative in others. This kind of press has no national interest, and does not represent the true and authentic press by any means.

Presently, the press is manipulating the truth, thereby provoking excitement instead of stimulating discussion and tranquillity. By these actions, it promotes instigation and deception. The press dissects the wholeness of an issue, and twists the truth to its own purposes. It changes criticism into flattery instead of being shown as the negative it really is.

With the current technological advances in audio-visual media, the press will vanish if it does not face the challenge by offering the best of its capabilities and potential. The press seeks cheap financial gains and ignores the quality of its production. Watching a TV news bulletin for half an hour cannot supplant the written word unless the press itself diminishes its role by committing the transgressions previously mentioned here.

My last point is an open call to the press to respect truth in publishing news, and to be accurate in communicating attitudes. We ask it to be independent, and to avoid being deceptively clever, surreptitious, and viciousness in reporting.