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Cablegate: Lebanon: Print Media -- Newspapers

VZCZCXYZ9601
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLB #0334/01 0650856
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 050856Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1195
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
INFO RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 3157
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 2504
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 3725
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 2017
RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL//CCPA PRIORITY

UNCLAS BEIRUT 000334

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/ELA - SOMERSET, NEA/PPD, R, INR/R/MR
INR-PARENT
SECDEF FOR OASD/PA
LONDON/POL
PARIS/POL

WHITE HOUSE FOR NSC
USCENTCOM FOR CCPA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KMDR OPRC KPAO PREF PREL KISL KPAL LE
SUBJECT: Lebanon: Print Media -- Newspapers


1. This cable is sensitive but unclassified. Please handle
accordingly.

2. (U) Summary: This cable provides information on Lebanese
newspapers including political affiliations and circulation figures
where available. Lebanon's print media is diverse, vibrant and
often opinionated. There are twelve local newspapers; among these
are one French-language newspaper, L'Orient-Le Jour, and one
English-language newspaper, The Daily Star. There are also two
pan-Arab newspapers, Al-Hayat and Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat. In addition,
there are over one hundred Lebanese magazines covering political,
social, and economic issues. End Summary.

Arabic Language Newspapers
--------------------------

3. (SBU) An-Nahar: An-Nahar is moderate and anti-Syria. Gebran
Tueni founded An-Nahar on August 4, 1933; following his death in
1947, his son, Ghassan, assumed leadership of the paper. In 2000,
Ghassan retired and his son, Gebran Tueni, succeeded him. On
December 12, 2005, Gebran Tueni was assassinated; Ghassan took over
the paper, assisted by his grand-daughter Nayla, Gebran's daughter.
An-Nahar is receptive to requests for coverage of U.S. policies.

4. (SBU) As-Safir: As-Safir is characterized as an Arab
nationalist newspaper. As-Safir was founded in 1974 by Talal Salman,
who was funded by and cooperated with Libya and the Palestine
Liberation Organization (PLO). Since the alleged kidnapping of
Al-Imam As-Sadr to Libya and the 1985 battles between the Lebanese
and the Palestinians, Libya ceased funding As-Safir. Saudi Arabia,
Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar funded the paper
following Libya's withdrawl. When Rafiq Hariri became prime
minister, he totally financed As-Safir. As-Safir always criticizes
U.S. policy, the Embassy, and the Chief of Mission, no matter who it
is, harshly.

5. (SBU) Ad-Diyar: Ad-Diyar was founded in 1988 by a retired army
officer, Charles Ayoub, who became known for his pro-Syrian, yet
independent views. Ayoub frequently criticizes U.S. policies,
although the paper does include other views and it is sometimes
sensationalist. Ad-Diyar's political persuasion changes every few
years; currently, it is characterized as pro-Syrian.

6. (SBU) Al-Mustaqbal: Al-Mustaqbal supports the Hariri family and
it is well-financed. Rafiq Hariri founded the paper in 2000; his
sons now control it.

7. (SBU) Ash-Sharq: Ash-Sharq supports the Hariri family now,
whereas initially it was pro-Syrian. Founded by the Ka'ki family in
1950, Ash-Sharq was the first Lebanese newspaper to enter the Syrian
market and to be sold along with Syrian dailies. Because of Rafiq
Hariri's financial support, the paper aligned itself with his
family.

8. (SBU) Al-Anwar: Al-Anwar was founded by Anis Freiha in 1959,
and is a part of Dar Al-Sayyad ("House of Fishermen"), which also
publishes eighteen topical magazines. It is financially supported
by various Gulf countries. Al-Anwar is considered centrist and
independent.

9. (SBU) Al-Liwa': Al-Liwa' is pro-Sunni Muslim and moderate.
Al-Liwa' was founded by Abdel-Ghani Salam in 1962. It addresses the
mainstream Sunni Muslim audience primarily in Beirut, but it is a
popular newspaper in Tripoli as well. Its financial support comes
primarily from Saudi Arabia.

10. (SBU) Al-Bayraq: Al-Bayraq was founded in 1912. It is owned
and directed by the head of the Lebanese Editors' Syndicate, Milhem
Karam. This daily is a prestige publication of its owner, and it
always follows the policies of the Lebanese President. Since Emile
Lahoud left the presidency (November 23, 2007), it has reported news
without any clear political affiliation.

11. (SBU) Al-Akhbar: Al-Akhbar is characterized as pro-opposition,
i.e., pro-March 8. Founded in 2006, it is owned by a group of
businessmen, mostly from the Gulf. It also has considerable support
from a group of Lebanese businessmen who have relations with Michel
Aoun and Hizballah. Some say Al-Akhbar is owned by Hizballah and
financed by Iran, but the editor-in-chief denies this. The paper is
well-connected to Hizballah sources, as well as other Islamic
militant groups. The staff members include editorialists of various
affiliations. Lebanese usually read Al-Akhbar because it is
believed to have the most information. Al-Akhbar frequently
criticizes U.S. policy and, in the past, it has critiqued the Chief
of Mission's activities and statements.

12. (SBU) Al-Balad: Al-Balad started in December 2003 and is owned
by a group of Kuwaiti businessmen. It started with a clearly
moderate policy and was able to attract an audience quickly. In an
environment where the highest circulation of any newspaper reached
18,000, Al-Balad reached a daily circulation rate of 52,000. During
the July 2006 war, however, Al-Balad's circulation decreased
drastically. Following the war, it focused on reporting the news
without any clear political affiliation. Circulation improved as
the paper changed into a daily semi-socio-political newspaper, which
also entertains.

French and English Newspapers
-----------------------------

13. (SBU) L'Orient-Le Jour: Originally, there were two newspapers
-- L'Orient and Le Jour. L'Orient was founded by Journalist George
Nakkash in 1925; Le Jour was founded by prominent Lebanese
intellectual Michel Shiha in 1934; L'Orient and Le Jour merged in
1971. This paper is the only French-language daily and is a result
of the dominant francophone society which emerged with the French
Mandate over Lebanon following the demise of the Ottoman Empire.
This paper's audience is the Lebanese elite and, traditionally, the
diplomatic corps. The paper's policy is similar to An-Nahar's -- it
is considered moderate and pro-Christian.

14. (SBU) The Daily Star: The Daily Star, characterized as
independent, was first published in 1952 by Kamel Mroue. Following
his assassination in 1966, supposedly by Nasserites, the paper
ceased publication. It was re-launched in November 1996 by his son
Jamil Mroue. The Daily Star is the only Lebanon-based,
English-language newspaper. It has the highest turnover average of
among journalists of all Lebanese newspapers because of the lack of
qualified English journalists; and, recently it has had severe
financial difficulties.

Pan-Arab Newspapers
-------------------

15. (SBU) The pan-Arab newspapers, Al-Hayat and Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat,
are Saudi-owned. Each newspaper has a "Lebanon page," focusing on
news events. The Paris and the Washington Lebanese Al-Hayat
correspondents are senior journalists with excellent connections.
Both the in-country journalists and the external ones consistently
contact Embassy Beirut.

Comment
-------

16. (SBU) Newspaper headlines and prominent lead stories are read
daily on television and radio talk shows. Political talk shows
frequently have journalists as guests and the editorials are
discussed. Every television channel has a daily political talk show;
and, once or twice a week, depending on the television channel,
there is an evening political talk show. Typically, these shows
host a politician and journalists with different political
affiliations. Newspaper reports generally frame the discussions.
Print journalists have become the television or radio talk show
commentators.

17. (SBU) Understanding the political affiliation of Lebanese
newspapers may assist in understanding specific stories, editorials,
analyses, or commentaries. Individual politicians and political
groups use the newspapers as platforms to express their opinions and
persuade the public to support certain positions as well as to
ameliorate or escalate situations. Lebanese newspapers are not
independently financed; and, circulation numbers remain mostly
unknown. Ad-Diyar publishes its circulation figures as
10,000-12,000 per day; Al-Balad says its circulation is 40,000 per
day. End Comment.

Sison

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