Caretaker Information Minister, Dr. Manal Abdel-Samad Najd, participated last Thursday in a lecture organized by the Lebanese American University in Beirut (LAU), entitled “Freedom of expression and the role of women in leadership”, in the presence of LAU Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, Dr. Imad Salamey, and a number of students pursuing their Master’s degree in the Department of Social Sciences.
In her word, Abdel Samad touched on her vision to transform the Ministry of Information into a Ministry of Communication and Dialogue ever since she assumed her duties at the Ministry. “We have been able to accomplish several things, including the development and restructuring of the media bodies within the Ministry, modernizing the traditional public media system by activating the Media and Communication Law to ensure freedom of information and the right to access it, as well as expanding in the areas of innovation and digital transformation towards a pioneering e-government,” she explained.
Abdel Samad outlined some of the most prominent areas addressed in this respect, including the creation of a platform to combat fake news, particularly in wake of the spread of Covid-19, as well as a platform to organize the vaccination process; the implementation of the “Right to Information Law”’; encouraging Lebanese production in relation to Coronavirus requirements; setting a roadmap to enhance media and drama production for internal growth and international competition; coordinating with the National Committee for Cybersecurity to develop a national strategy; organizing training courses for media students at the Ministry, amongst other initiatives.
On the protection of freedom of expression and journalists who are subjected to attacks, the Caretaker Minister emphasized on coordinating with the Ministries of Interior and Defense and the Army Command to prevent any hostile acts against journalists.
“We have also amended some provisions of the Media Bill to abolish any prison sentence by referring to the Lebanese Constitution; in addition to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Abdel Samad underlined, noting that “access to information plays a key role in enhancing accountability and citizens’ ability to monitor government actions, as well as contributing to participatory development.”
She added: “At a later stage, we will organize training courses for media professionals during their field coverage, such as demonstrations…”
Referring to the challenges that hinder the achievement of objectivity in a diversified country, Abdel Samad indicated that a strategy has been put in place, namely through implementing the law on the right to access information, spread awareness, and cooperate with United Nations bodies to train journalists and facilitate investigative journalism to ensure transparency, far-reaching the achievement of a comprehensive and fair democracy.
The Minister highlighted herein the need “to adhere to objectivity to ensure our unifying national identity that re-establishes the principles of equality and social justice.”
On the subject of good governance, Abdel Samad said: “Corruption is not the main cause. However, it is the result of a weak system. To achieve good governance, we need 5 pillars: voice and accountability, rule of law, elimination of corruption, political stability, and an effective government.”
Regarding her role as a woman in politics, Abdel Samad considered that women have major roles as leaders in various fields; however, she referred to the many obstacles that women face in politics, particularly with the absence of priority given to their qualifications and competencies.