BEIRUT: Government officials joined protesters in voicing their support Thursday for the recent Pact for Promoting Civil Peace in Lebanon, which was drawn up last month with the backing of all major media outlets and relevant governmental bodies. Demonstrators from the Maan (Together) Campaign for Civil Peace gathered outside the Information Ministry in the morning, demanding that media and politicians alike abide by the pact, which was written up based on input from editors from leading outlets with the support of the United Nations Development Program and the European Union.
The document sets out a series of articles intended to promote high standards of accuracy and professionalism while respecting the current media laws.
Both Walid Daouk, the caretaker information minister, and Abdel-Hadi Mahfouz, the head of the National Audiovisual Council, stopped by the protest to offer their support just ahead of a council meeting.
“The chairman of the National Media Council and I came to congratulate civil society on this mobilization, which calls for the implementation of the code of ethics for media, and we all know that this pact has been developed by the journalists themselves,” Daouk told the protesters.
Daouk went on to point out the irony that one media outlet had already misreported the protest itself, claiming the demonstrators were ministry employees striking over the stalled wage increase.
Mahfouz echoed Daouk’s sentiments, but added his own appeal to the political class, which owns much of the Lebanese media, to respect the laws.
“We in the National Audiovisual Council are on your side because the law is not being enforced, so how can a pact be implemented except voluntarily by the institutions [of media and state],” Mahfouz said.
Mahfouz reiterated his support for the protest following the council’s meeting, expressing hope that pressure from civil society would strengthen the political will to confront violators of the law.
The council also reportedly discussed licensing for two new radio stations – Lubnan al-Thiqafa (Lebanon of Culture) and Al-Hoda, whose applications would be referred to the Cabinet for review – and sectarian religious satellite channels based abroad.
Mahfouz said the council also discussed a number of violations of the media law, indicating that the implicated outlets would be referred to the judiciary. He also claimed the council had received “requests” from civil society groups that the media “mitigate” heated political rhetoric.
Meanwhile, the Syndicate of Audiovisual Media Workers, founded in 2010, celebrated the distribution of membership cards to members for the first time Thursday morning at UNESCO.
The syndicate’s secretary, Ibrahim Farhat, told the assembled crowd that its first priority was to “organize the field audiovisual media in Lebanon and raise up and protect the profession and to work toward its development and promotion in every area.”
Farhat went on to say that the syndicate would push for another registration drive, promising to improve transparency and diversity.