Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The curious case of Lebanon's Daily Star

The fact that Lebanon's Daily Star has been a sinking ship for some time comes as little surprise to anyone who watched their return as The Undead from a brush with bankruptcy last year.  It is a shame. As Lebanon's only English language daily, the Daily Star has a great market position in the language of choice of many Lebanese and expatriates.

Their reporting ability is limited, and non-Lebanese news is based mostly on a simple aggregation of newswires. That could be a viable business model. Many people still prefer the romance of a Broadsheet with their morning coffee over Google Reader.  The problems arise when they express opinions.   

I was outraged last week by their Editorial over the Koran-burning brouhaha. Today's editorial is even more outrageous.  "Hariri and Sayyed are both wrong," opines  Jamil Mroue:

"Like any other Lebanese citizen, Sayyed now has a right to seek legal recourse if he was in fact detained for four years without charge solely on the basis of what he has termed “crimes of slander.” The former general may have exceeded this right by making unbecoming statements that could constitute slander or incitement, but he remains entitled to use any and every legal means available to seek out reparation. Likewise, Hariri is entitled to see his father’s killers brought to justice – just as the premier maintains the right to lodge legal action against anyone, including Sayyed, who may have slandered him by unfairly accusing him of manipulating the investigation into the assassination.

"But the fact that both men have sought justice outside the umbrella of Lebanese courts – Sayyed through a lawsuit in Damascus and Hariri through an international tribunal – illustrates how little faith both men have in the very judiciary that they have done so little to support. And if two men with such a high degree of access to power have come to such conclusions, what does that say about the ability of the average citizen to achieve justice in the Lebanese courts?"

Comparing the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in the Hague with Sayyed's lawsuit in Damascus is bizarre to anyone with an IQ over "Borderline Deficiency". I don't think the Daily Star is run by idiots, or by people with deficient English language skills.  Something else is at play here. What could it be? The clues lie in Mroue's own words: describing Sayyed's vitriol as "unbecoming statements that could constitute slander or incitement."  

"Unbecoming....that could "?  The man is reported to have said:

"Monkeys are running the country"
"It's not enough for Hariri to admit that he erred, he has to pay the price of his mistakes"
"I swear on my honour that I [will] take.. [my rights] with my own hand,”
He called on the people to “revolt against authority and attack officials in their houses”

This could not "potentially constitute...incitement." This is incitement.  Arguing otherwise is at best a reflection of intellectual sloth, and at worse outright dishonesty.

The problem with the Daily Star seems to be that they are so desperate to avoid losing more readers, that they have decided to stick to what they believe are "balanced" views, fearful of upsetting any reader.  The result is that their Editorials are largely piffle that is unlikely to please any reader.   

I guess it is time to remove the Daily Star Editorials RSS feed from my Google Reader.  

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