President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, received Information Minister, Dr. Manal Abdel Samad Najd, today at the Presidential Palace, and discussed with her general affairs and the results of her recent participation in the meeting of Arab Information Ministers, in Cairo.
After the meeting, Minister Abdel Samad made the following statement:
“I briefed His Excellency, on my visit to Egypt for participating in the meeting of Arab Information Ministers. However, the discussion was overshadowed by the deteriorating living and economic conditions which the citizens are suffering from, in addition to the sufferings of employees in the public sector, whether in the media or Lebanon TV. Some employees couldn’t afford to buy gasoline, or if they can afford to buy they have to wait in a cue for two or three hours to fill up their cars, and their incomes are no longer enough for them.
The current situation is very bad. We demand social assistance for employees, whether in TL or in the ministry. I see that this income is short-term and cannot meet employee-needs on the long term, as it is necessary to secure a life-time income for this employee on the draft law presented by the Information Ministry to the Parliament. This guarantees the inclusion of contractors in the Ministry in the retirement charter, and this is very essential. This is a gift for employees, especially contractors, because it provides them with guarantees. We stress the need to work on achieving development and growth, since no matter what we offer in aid for the employee, which is aid within a rentier economy, it doesn’t give anything in return on the long-run, nor does it achieve any economic growth. The solution begins when each individual considers that he has the solution, and considers himself the most responsible for contributing to the solution. Each individual should join hands with his partner, away from disputes over some topics, since disputes will lead to tension in the atmosphere and things will turn to the worse. This will accelerate the collapse in various sectors, and this is what we are witnessing today in the educational sector, as well as in the health and media sectors, reflected on all levels especially tourism. Instead of thinking about securing a good environment for tourists, we must secure a good environment for citizens, to live a decent life, which is one of the most basic rights.
We measure performance by results, so if results are bad, this means that the adopted policies were wrong, no matter who these policies are and who is behind them. It therefore necessary to reconsider and research the policies adopted in our system, and his Excellency the President saw that the entire system needs to be restored. Regarding my visit to Egypt, there was unanimity in support of the Lebanese state and approval of the Information Ministry’s proposals fully. The first proposal is that Beirut will be the capital of Arab media in year 2023. We have to secure the incubating environment for this great event, which has a great strategic dimension since it helps restore confidence in Lebanese media and sheds light on Lebanon as a major media, heritage and tourism station, with important landmarks which attract investments. Beirut is a station to attract investors in the productive, media and industrial sectors. This requires concerted efforts of both public and private sectors.
Therefore, it is necessary to form specialized committees. Whether at the level of ministries, or cooperating with the media and the private sector to market this idea. This helps restore Lebanon to its leading position in the media sector, instead of exporting our media professionals who constitute an important and rare human wealth. As for the second proposal, which was unanimously approved during the conference, it is to allocate an award to Beirut, which is the “Beirut Prize for Humanity”. This award was launched in solidarity with the Beirut Port explosion victims, and on the occasion of commemoration of this anniversary blast. Since this explosion is a criminal and inhuman act, we suggested allocating an award for the best journalistic work which can shed light on the humanitarian aspect, and take into account objectivity, impartiality and transparency, in order to achieve justice and the pursuit of truth.
After a year has passed, we still affirm that the truth must come to light and that families of victims be compensated by revealing the truth and all circumstances.
We also tackled the subject of the French gift which was presented to the Ministry of Information, and this comes as a result of the great confidence in the projects presented by the ministry, including what we consider the dream project, which is archiving media materials for Lebanon TV and the Ministry of Information, whether the agency or the Lebanese radio or also the Directorate of Studies. There is a very rich archive dating back to 1938, and it is necessary to archive it so that we can benefit from this ancient media heritage, and the French state, through its embassy and ambassador in Lebanon, is thanked for contributing to putting this goal on the path of implementation through cooperation in this framework.
We also addressed a very important law issued by Parliament, the Public Procurement Law. This law is one of the required reform items at the level of Lebanon, and at the level of countries in general, in order to achieve transparency and equality in the issue of public procurement. We strongly demand that the approval of the appointment of the authority that manages this purchase be expedited, and that neutrality and objectivity be taken into account in its selection, especially since the authority is chosen by the Cabinet, so it is important for us to be chosen on objective grounds, so that we have actually achieved the goal of this law.
As for the issue of Lebanon TV, I would like to clarify a basic point, which is that television suffers a lot in the absence of a board of directors, which usually enjoys wide powers. I would like to point out that most development projects or those related to program networks and others require the presence of a board of directors, in the absence of the Council and its Chairman, the Minister of Information exercises the powers of the Chairman of the Board of Directors de facto and not by law, and at a minimum, to conduct television business, within the framework of rational and sound management.
We have endeavored to appoint a board of directors, because this is our main problem in television, but the Port explosion constituted a fatal blow not only for the television, but for the whole country, and affected our decision, after we were in the final stage of selecting the candidates and raising the names to the Council of Ministers. We continued in this direction in the hope that the government would be formed, and when we began to lose hope of its formation in the near term, I submitted about a month ago a summons to the Judiciary to appoint a temporary director or a judicial guard for Lebanon TV. Judicial assistants delayed the issuance of the decision. We consider that every delay negatively affects the television.
As for the issue of electronic media, we are within the framework of developing a strategy for it, and putting it forward at the level of the League of Arab States, because we consider that individual pressure does not serve any issue, and it is necessary to form an Arab bloc to face any challenges in the context of electronic media, and this is what we seek. In addition to giving rights to the media as a result of the lost profit from advertising and by allocating a kind of revenue that major technology companies receive to the media, and a tax for the state from these revenues because they are missed profits for them, and value is created by the companies doing their business on Lebanese land”.