BEIRUT: After acting as head of the Press Federation for 31 years, Mohammad Baalbaki finally decided to resign and hand over his duties, citing health reasons, a source in the federation told The Daily Star Monday.
Baalbaki, 92, was elected head of the federation in 1982. His term has since been renewed 15 consecutive times, the last being in January 2011 for a new term to expire in January 2014.
“The federation’s council discussed the issue in its latest meeting and were informed of Baalbaki’s decision, which was his own, and not the result of any external pressure,” the source said.
“The council, however, asked Baalbaki to delay the announcement of his decision until an agreement was reached over the details of what would happen next,” the source added.
“A lot of financial and administrative issues should be finalized and given final clearance before Baalbaki leaves his office.”
About his possible successor, the source said: “There are several candidates being deliberated, but the current favorite is the editor-in-chief of Al-Liwaa daily newspaper, Salah Salam.”
“Baalbaki is a high caliber intellectual and he has achieved much during his reign, but lately he has been more preoccupied with writing and reading. In addition to that, his old age has made it hard for him, with his physical condition, to carry on with the duties and obligations of the post,” he added.
“We should not forget that he devoted 31 years of his life to this office, 28 of which were spent well above the official age of retirement, which is 64.”
Baalbaki had his schooling at Al-Maqassed schools and subsequently at Islamic schools.
He was granted one of the first two scholarships awarded in the Faculty of Humanities at the American University of Beirut, where he graduated with distinction with a degree in Arabic Literature.
During his studies at AUB, he founded Al-Orwa magazine, then worked in Ad-Diyar newspaper and taught history at the same time at AUB.
In 1943, Baalbaki devoted himself to journalism and worked at Dar al-Sayyad and founded, along with late journalist Said Sarabey, a political daily newspaper called Sada Lubnan, which published until the late 1980s.
The former head of the Journalists Union Karam Karam died in 2012, after having held the office for 44 years. Elias Aoun was elected as his successor.