BEIRUT: Local daily An-Nahar protested Lebanon’s “catastrophic” political and economic situation with a blank newspaper of its Thursday issue.
“We are all facing one of the most difficult stages in the history of Lebanon,” Editor-in-Chief Nayla Tueni said at a news conference at An-Nahar’s headquarters.
“Our message today is to express the pain that we can no longer bear the situation,” she added.
The daily, which put out eight pages instead of its usual 12, only printed its name, the publication’s social media usernames and editorial information, and a picture of its late Editor-in-Chief Gebran Tueni and his famous oath calling for national unity.
At the news conference, Tueni held a copy of the paper, which had what she called the message of the blank issue handwritten in blue: “A white Nahar [day] in the face of darkness Nayla Tueni.”
An-Nahar’s website also featured empty articles. Its social media profiles had white backgrounds, white profile pictures and blank posts.
“An-Nahar is tired of writing your excuses and empty promises. We have been waiting for five months for a government while we watch your games of dividing shares,” Tueni said, addressing the nation’s politicians.
Parties have been in dispute over ministerial shares in the 30-member Cabinet since Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri was tasked with forming a government in May after parliamentary elections.
Tueni was elected an MP in the previous vote in 2009 but lost her seat this time around.
“This white paper today is to say, ‘Enough!’ The people have had enough,” Tueni said.
The blank pages, she added, represented the paper’s responsibility to react to what it perceives as Lebanon’s “catastrophic” situation.
“Our children are breathing polluted air and our environment has become a habitat for diseases,” Tueni said.
She also made assurances that An-Nahar will not stop publishing, after speculation that the blank issue was meant to shed light on Lebanon’s press crisis.
Recently, local newspaper Al-Anwar’s publisher Dar Assayad decided to stop printing the daily due to financial difficulties. Another prominent paper, As-Safir, shut down in 2016 for the same reason.
“An-Nahar can continue and it will. We will continue in print and online,” Tueni said.
A reporter from An-Nahar told local media after the news conference that his paper had decided to “positively shock” the people with the blank issue. “We write every day. Today we decided to stay silent,” he said, adding that people’s reactions were positive.
The event was also attended by MP Nadim Gemayel, who complimented An-Nahar for its courage. “It is not easy for any publication to issue a blank paper, and I hope this can be Lebanon’s new page,” he said.
A source close to An-Nahar told The Daily Star earlier in the day that the paper’s reporters weren’t informed of the decision beforehand.
An-Nahar was established in 1933 by Gebran Tueni and is now run by his great-granddaughter. Additional reporting by Ghinwa Obeid