Beirut: ‘Wake up before it’s too late!’ read a statement atop a photo of a Cedar tree on Lebanon’s newspaper The Daily Star [TDS] on its last page.
Meanwhile, the English language newspaper’s front page had the word ‘Lebanon’ printed in white bold letters with a blackened background.
In what is believed to be the first of its kind and rare editorial layout, TDS refrained from publishing any news article in its print edition of Thursday [August 8, 2019] to take a stance on the deteriorating situation in Lebanon and calling on officials to ‘wake up’ before it is too late to save the country from sliding into further abyss.
“I have been selling newspapers for the past 35 years. It’s the first time I see such a cover-to-cover blackened publication. I am impressed with this stance. I do believe it could make a difference. I wish other newspapers would do the same. This sends out a very stern message to Lebanese politicians. The 4th State (media) can do miracles and I hope they save us,” a bookstore owner Akram Mahmoud told Gulf News.
On its website, The Daily Star published a mini editorial saying: “A special edition was printed with each page listing one main issue dragging the country toward the abyss. Despite the worsening political, economic, financial and social problems, there is still time to save the country. This requires a collaborative effort from all sides and sacrificing for the good of the country.”
The issues featured in the edition were listed as: government deadlock, sectarian rhetoric increasing by the day, trash continues to pile up in the streets, pollution at alarming levels, unemployment rate at 25%, illegal weapons abound in the country, over 1.5 million refugees in the country, public debt close to $100 billion, bankruptcy threatens business and local currency in jeopardy.
Nadim Ladki, Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Star told Gulf News: “What we are trying to do is send a strong message to our readers and beyond. Lebanon is facing several serious challenges and it is time for everyone to realize that things are serious. We don’t aim to scare people or put them down but we need to act. We hope the correct measures are taken to save the country.”
Several newspapers worldwide have used empty pages either to express protest or solidarity in the past.
Media professor and specialist Dr Mahmoud Tarabay said the Daily Star’s move was “not enough”.
He called on other media outlets to do the same in order to force politicians to start acting.
-Bassam is a freelance journalist based in Beirut