Lebanon loses the Daily Star, a pillar of independent journalism

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The Star of the day, Lebanon’s oldest English-language newspaper, has become the latest victim of the country’s economic collapse, ending nearly 70 years of existence. Power outages and gas shortages are now commonplace. As the ranks of independent journalists in Lebanon dwindle, it will become increasingly difficult to hold accountable the corrupt political class that has left the country destitute.

During my four years at the Star of the day, both the newspaper and the country have been riding a wave of prosperity and optimism. Lebanon saw itself as the next Dubai. Now it depends on humanitarian aid.

The newspaper recruited me in 2000, shortly after I graduated from the American University of Beirut (AUB) with my BA and started a graduate program. I also edited Outlook, AUB’s student publication. The Star of the day focused on finding talent and launched the careers of a generation of journalists. Kim Ghattas, author of a best-selling book on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, published her first articles in the Star of the day. So is Michael Karam, a prominent wine writer who now lives in London.

The Star of the day, Lebanon’s oldest English-language newspaper, has become the latest victim of the country’s economic collapse, ending nearly 70 years of existence. Power outages and gas shortages are now commonplace. As the ranks of independent journalists in Lebanon dwindle, it will become increasingly difficult to hold accountable the corrupt political class that has left the country destitute.

During my four years at the Star of the day, both the newspaper and the country have been riding a wave of prosperity and optimism. Lebanon saw itself as the next Dubai. Now it depends on humanitarian aid.

The newspaper recruited me in 2000, shortly after I graduated from the American University of Beirut (AUB) with my BA and started a graduate program. I also edited Outlook, AUB’s student publication. The Star of the day focused on finding talent and launched the careers of a generation of journalists. Kim Ghattas, author of a best-selling book on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, published her first articles in the Star of the day. So is Michael Karam, a prominent wine writer who now lives in London.

I wrote my first story about young doctors, friends of AUB who opened a free clinic in the impoverished Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila. In Beirut, I interviewed Fidel “Fidelito” Ángel Castro Díaz-Balart, son of the Cuban strong man. I reported on the Arab League summit held in Beirut in 2002 and the border clashes between Hezbollah and Israel. The report took me to all corners of Lebanon, a country that is home to 18 recognized religious sects despite being smaller than Connecticut.

At the dawn of this century, the Star of the day dreamed big. Israel had just withdrawn its troops from southern Lebanon. There was unprecedented political stability, and with stability came investor confidence.

The Star of the day has formed a partnership with the International Herald Tribune. Publisher Jamil Mroue has successfully launched local editions in Arab countries, such as Syria, Kuwait and Egypt, which were sold with the Tribune. Mroue’s ambition mirrored that of the larger-than-life former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, whose assassination in 2005 accelerated the polarization that ultimately left the country’s politics and crippled its economy.

The perpetrators of corruption survived the Star of the day. While I was at the newspaper, he denounced a plan to embezzle funds at the state-owned Casino du Liban, the beneficiaries of which included Jamil al-Sayyed, head of the country’s internal security service. Sayyed responded by harassing the newspaper’s staff, who subsequently received calls from state security asking them to “go to the security offices for a cup of coffee,” a wake-up call. scale of bullying. Writers who persisted in causing havoc had their passports confiscated or were detained and questioned for hours at airports every time they traveled. Undercover security guards followed reporters while standing out – a frightening tactic.

Today, Sayyed is an MP. Last week, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on him under Executive Order 13441, which targets those who contribute to the collapse of the rule of law in Lebanon. According to the Treasury Department, he circumvented banking regulations by transferring $ 120 million to overseas investments. “During the 2019 protests, when protesters demonstrated outside his home to demand his resignation and call him corrupt, Sayyed called on the authorities to shoot and kill the protesters,” according to the Treasury Department.

The Star of the day also found himself in an unlikely showdown with Dunkin ‘Donuts over the issue of tolerance for Lebanon’s LGBTQ community. A Dunkin ‘store in Beirut had become a popular hangout for gay men in the neighborhood, prompting the store to display a sign stating that it was a “family place” and that it “had to be. reserved the right “not to sell to clients he considered” inappropriately dressed. I had become deputy editor of the Star of the daythe Lebanon edition at the time, and we published the story on our front page. Even though Lebanon is relatively conservative, Dunkin ‘was forced to reverse his decision, but not before making sure he had canceled his corporate subscription to the Star of the day, inflicting losses on our paper. Knowing that the Star of the day had their backs, the LGBTQ community returned the favor by encouraging their supporters to subscribe to the newspaper.

After Hariri’s assassination and Hezbollah’s consolidation of power behind a democratic facade, the Star of the day has remained vibrant and has become a primary source of information for English speakers in the Middle East at a time when other English language publications in the region were just state-owned spokespersons. Yet Lebanon’s prosperity ebbed as its Ponzi scheme economy began to lose momentum, as Hezbollah’s regional military entanglements kept the country on a war footing with no end in sight.

Skilled labor has emigrated. Investors have lost confidence. The Star of the daythe ability to retain talent declined and its staff began to decline. Aggregation of information and speculation have replaced investigative reporting and cleverly argued editorials.

This week, after thirty years since its post-Civil War revival, the Star of the day to close. It had already stopped publishing a print edition, moving to a web-only format. The newspaper’s balance sheet had been drowned in red ink for some time. Lebanon itself has become inhospitable to businesses of all kinds thanks to frequent power cuts and the prohibitive price of gas. Banks are insolvent. Credit card limits for overseas purchases are $ 10 per month, which does not cover global newspaper subscriptions.

From the band of siblings I worked with in Beirut Star of the day, there are only a handful left in the country. Some have stayed in journalism or similar fields. Others turned to industries ranging from ceramic production to healthcare.

The once bustling newspaper offices have been reduced to dust-in-the-dark archives. Its history is the history of Lebanon, reduced in less than 15 years from a promising country to a failed state. Few countries in the region have Lebanon’s promise, but many have its greatest weakness: a state increasingly co-opted by armed Iranian proxies who subordinate the interests of the people to the ideology and ambitions of Tehran. In Iraq, as in Lebanon, they left a Potemkin democracy in place. In Syria and Yemen, this is not necessary. Journalists have become targets.


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