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Samaha: Media should respect Arab sensitivities - Minister says law must be reviewed (Daily Star)

Audiovisual media, particularly satellite TV channels, should respect the sensitivities of their audiences and Arab states in these tumultuous times, Information Minister Michel Samaha said Wednesday. “The tragic events in Iraq have signaled the onset of a new and dangerous era for the Arab nation,” said Samaha, following a meeting between the National Audiovisual Media Council and the directors of audiovisual media in Lebanon.

“Everyone must operate within the boundaries of the law and respect its limits,” he added. “News should be objective and correct, because it is in the public domain,” said head of the National Audiovisual Media Council, Abdel-Hadi Mahfouz. “These media should not become tools for the personal politics of their owners.”

Samaha says the audiovisual media should promote stronger ties and coexistence among Arabs instead of fueling needless strife. “Let us not forget the value of the Lebanese expatriates working in the Arab world and their role in the Lebanese national economy,” said Mahfouz. “A drop in their contributions would be devastating,” he added. “It’s important to review the media law that was enacted in the 1990s as it is not appropriate for the current conditions,” said Mahfouz. “This does not mean that the media can and should operate outside the boundaries of the current law.”

He said the audiovisual media in Lebanon face numerous issues, including the implementation of the master plan, interference on the airwaves, developing and increasing the industry’s competitiveness and Lebanese-Arab relations.

He announced the creation of a follow-up committee to deal with latest developments, legislate a new framework and study the possibility of lessening financial burdens.

Mahfouz said mistakes were made in the past and called on the audiovisual media to respect the law, warning that any breaches would be dealt with accordingly. “We strongly favor a free press, which is a fundamental characteristic of Lebanon,” said Mahfouz. “Our concern is to keep Lebanon the center of freedom in the Arab world,” he added. “From now on, all Lebanese media will be carefully monitored for full compliance with the law,” concluded Mahfouz. “The monitoring will include foreign agencies that are broadcasting from Lebanon.”

Beirut,05 26 2003
Ara Alain Arzoumanian
The Daily Star
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