BEIRUT Dec 31 Lebanese daily newspaper As-Safir
printed its final edition on Saturday, forced to close after 42
years because of financial problems as other news outlets in the
country face similar difficulties.
The front page led with an editorial entitled "The nation
"The economy is not well, and nor is politics. This cannot
but reflect on and impact the press," the article said.
Chief editor Talal Salman earlier in the year blamed the
newspaper's planned closure on falling revenues and Lebanon's
political and sectarian problems, including the absence of a
president and functioning state institutions.
Lebanon's parliament elected President Michel Aoun in
October after more than two years without a head of state, and a
new government was named this month.
Growth in Lebanon's economy has been sluggish since the
collapse of a unity government and the start of the Syrian civil
war next door in 2011. Gross domestic product (GDP) grew at only
two percent in 2014.
As-Safir's editorial said that despite Lebanon escaping the
levels of violence that have plagued much of the region in
recent years, the knock-on economic and political effects on the
tiny Mediterranean country, which hosts over 1 million Syrian
refugees, have taken their toll on its once thriving press.
The daily, which is close to the Lebanese Shi'ite group
Hezbollah, was founded in 1974 with the slogan "a voice for
those who have no voice".
A cartoon on the front page of its last issue featured a
broken pen and the ubiquitous character Handala - the creation
of a Palestinian former As-Safir cartoonist - a child who bears
witness to war and destruction in the Arab world.
Other newspapers have also been affected by Lebanon's
economic woes, including daily An-Nahar, which is set to cut a
large number of staff.
Lebanon's press union urged the government this week to take
steps to strengthen the country's print media. As-Safir said
there were discussions with the new information minister for
possible funding for the sector worth up to $15 million per
year. The government has yet to approve the plan, however.
Lebanon has a paralysed political system and sectarian
tensions left over from a civil war that ended around 15 years
ago. These have increased with Syria's war.
(Reporting by John Davison; Editing by Stephen Powell)