Lebanese Newspaper Protests Political Gridlock with Blank Paper

Leading Lebanese newspaper, An-Nahar, published a blank newspaper to protest the continued failure of members of parliament to form a government. Lebanon has been without a government since elections last May.

In order to bring attention to the eight blank newspaper pages published last week the CEO of An-Nahar, Nayla Tueni, used the hashtag #نبض الشعب, which translates to “white day.”

Tueni tweeted, “The interaction that I have touched on today is the greatest evidence of the importance of the role of journalism, and now the pen will return to writing and screaming  #نهار_أبيض.”

Tueni’s tweet expresses the paper’s desire to use news networks and other platforms to speak out against political inaction. She clarified that the intent of the blank pages was indeed a commentary on government lethargy.

This is not the first time that the Lebanese government and media have pushed against each other. In 2014, eight journalists were attacked as a product of the #youstink movement, which aimed to draw attention to the government’s ineptitude in waste control – a problem that is still yet to be resolved.

With this in mind, Freedom House has ranked Lebanon’s press freedom as 56/100 with 100 being most free and zero being the least free.

Journalists rights’ are not the only ones being tested. Social media activists, who critique political and religious leadership online, have recently been arrested and interrogated by the Cyber Crimes Bureau.

The continuation of an unformed government puts Lebanon’s economy at risk since the country is one of the world’s most indebted nations.

Billions of dollars in funds essential to the reformation of Lebanon’s economy promised as investment by the international community are being withheld until Lebanon forms a government.

Economic problems in Lebanon harm media outlets as well. The heads of Lebanon’s leading newspapers recently held a meeting with the Information Minister in Beirut to discuss the financial future of the media where they discussed how newspapers can secure funding from the government in these hard times in light of the recent shutdown of two newspapers due to financial issues.

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