Will the last newspaper editor to leave Beirut please turn out the lights - Middle East News - Haaretz
The Lebanese newspaper As-Safir printed its final edition last Saturday. In a short video posted on YouTube, founder and editor-in-chief Talal Salman can be seen taking his scarf and turning off the lights in his office. Darkness falls as he leaves the building of the newspaper he founded in 1974.
As-Safir, published in Beirut, used to be one of the most important Arabic-language papers in Lebanon. It took a pro-Syrian stance (and, as a result, was suspected of being funded by the Assad regime) but in its early days, the daily opposed Syrian involvement in the long Lebanese civil war. When the first Lebanon war with Israel broke out in 1982, and when the confrontations between Israel and Hezbollah began, the newspaper stood behind the militant Shi’ite organization – even though Salman’s ideology was, and remained, pan-Arab and left-wing. Salman saw As-Safir as a Lebanese national paper, obliged to support the resistance to foreign occupation, especially that of Israel.
Salman blames the paper’s closure on financial reasons and its shrinking circulation figures. Even the newspaper’s website didn’t help to turns things around. As-Safir is a family newspaper: the CEO is one of Salman’s sons, his daughter is the managing editor, while another daughter runs the archive. Unlike other dailies in Lebanon, which enjoy the support of political parties or aid from foreign Arab governments, As-Safir had no stable financial base, especially after the Syrian regime – which probably did provide some funding in the past – ran into its own financial difficulties.
As-Safir is not the only Lebanese newspaper that has failed to go up against online competition. An-Nahar, which was founded in 1933 and was once the most prominent, best-selling paper in Lebanon, is also facing an uncertain future. It recently announced that nearly 100 staffers were to be laid off, and it has had problems paying salaries for over a year.