Lebanon will commemorate its fallen members of the press Friday, in a somber occasion that highlights the lack of respect for the profession in this part of the world.
The country’s journalist martyrs during years of peace have outnumbered those members of the media who are killed during wars in other countries.
Lebanon can continue to boast of its relatively high level of press freedom, when compared to surrounding countries, but this mark of distinction doesn’t erase the fact that local journalists suffer from a range of problems, starting with the lack of legal and other forms of protection for their profession.
This is due largely to the attitude of nearly every government in the region: The media is only doing its job when it is directly affiliated with a given regime, or political party, or caters to the whims and interests of such entities. Anything else is interpreted as trouble-making, or worse.
Despite this depressing situation, this newspaper can only salute Lebanon’s media martyrs, whether prior to Independence or afterward.
These fallen heroes stood up for their principles, which proved detrimental to their very lives, while their courage has kept the flame burning brightly for future generations.
This newspaper hopes that the media in general gains true respect, both as an industry, and as a profession. Through the eyes of the media, society learns about what is taking place around it. This function is even more relevant and resonant today, as the revolutions in communications and transportation turn the world into a global village.
The conditions of Lebanon’s own press involves many negative aspects, but the freedom and performance of Lebanese journalists should serve as a model for the press in this region, where the situation has, for many decades, been nothing to write home about.
Commemorating the martyrs of journalism is especially important in today’s Middle East, where freedom of opinion and expression is being contested on a daily basis. A free media is a responsibility; it is also a basic necessity, since a society cannot healthily decide its future without having access to credible and accurate information.
It is no exaggeration to say that the press in the wider Arab world, despite the stance of the authorities, has made some strides in revealing the appalling injustices and human rights abuses that have marred this region. Members of the Lebanese press and their Arab colleagues have, through their efforts, helped open the eyes of local populations to their situation, and in recent months, the world has witnessed drastic changes in regimes that were formerly thought to be unconquerable.
What the press has achieved through words and pictures has proven to be mightier than the means of violence that have been arrayed against it, and Friday is a day to remember this powerful truth.