1858 to 1914
From 1918 to 1943
From 1943 to 1962
From 1962 to 1975
From 1976 to 1990
From 1990 till Today The Lebanese Press, which is more than one century Old, is considered to be one of the most important in the Arab countries thanks to its broad range of readers, in and out of Lebanon, its pluralism, influence and exceptional staff.
This tradition is based upon characteristics which have marked the Lebanese; the main ones are: attachment to freedom, thirst for knowledge, passion for adventure and their commercial sense.
The passion for journalism, the liberal atmosphere and the guarantee given by the Constitution to freedom of speech and press (articles 8 and 13) explain to a certain extent the existence of newspapers of all trends and in many languages (Arabic, French, Armenian and English). This spirit explains also the large number of papers, 57 daily newspapers, 50 weekly magazines, 4 monthly political magazines, 1300 specialized magazines out of which 80 magazines are religious.
We here draw the attention
that Lebanese law divides newspapers into political and non political ones.
Licensing political publications was stopped in 1953. This explains why
the prices of licenses has soared up on the black market.
The survival of some very old publications such as "Zahleh Al-Fatat" 1910, "Anahar" 1933.
Since 1858, date of the appearance of the first Lebanese newspaper in Lebanon "Hadikat Al-Akhbar" and in Istanbul published by a Lebanese, Iskandar Shalhoub, and stopped in 1914, most of the Lebanese newspapers were meant to express personal opinions and political projects and marked with a liberal trend.
In the nineteen fifties an almost independent informational press was born. It overpassed the family frame, but met a lot of difficulties by not getting involved into political struggles.
We can distinguish 5 important stages in the history of the Lebanese Press.
1858 to 1914
50 political newspapers (dailies, bi-monthlies and weeklies) 26 literary and scientific magazines were issued beside the 97 other magazines which made a relatively short appearance.
The characteristics of the newspapers of that period could be summed up as follows: call for national unity, human fraternity and revolt against Ottoman injustice.
Most of these newspapers and magazines stopped during World War One.
1918 to 1943
The Press returned to normal. The progress of technology, general elections, teaching and Occidental culture encouraged the appearance of newspapers in foreign languages: ("Le Réveil" and "La Syrie" in 1920; "Al-Maarad" in 1921; "L’Orient" in 1923).
Politically, the Press voiced the call for independence and backed it while, at the same time, it arranged to bring together the masses. Most newspapers were creating, slowly but surely, the thought of an independent Lebanon.
1943 to 1962
The proliferation of political newspapers drove the Lebanese authorities to interfere in order to limit the number. During this period two trends were shown regarding freedom of the Press: one favored legislations to protect the Press and the other, which appeared in 1949, wanted to restrict its freedom following the fierce opposition to the Lebanese President Bechara El-Khoury. According to some, this opposition did not only brake the equilibrium of Lebanese communities but also of Lebanese groups, specially following the condemnation and execution of Antoun Saadeh, leader of the National Syrian Party.
It was during that period that the Ministry of Information was created and important newspapers were published: "Assayad" 1943; "Al-Hayat", Al-Hawadess and "Le Soir" 1946; "Al-Anba", "Kull Shai 1947; "Ash-Shira’a" 1948; "The Daily Star" and "Sada Lubnan" 1952; "Al-Jarida" 1953; "As-Syassa", "Beirut Al-Massa", "Lissan Al-Hal" 1956; "Al-Anwar", "Le Matin", "Magazine", "Al-Ousbou’h Al-Arabi", "Al-Sha’ab" 1959; "Al-Mouharrer" 1962.
That was the gold age of the Lebanese Press.
1962 to 1975
As from the beginning of the 60’s, the Lebanese Press reached maturity thanks to the development of publicity. The Press was no more addressing only the elite but the whole population. Some newspapers even attracted readers from beyond the Lebanese frontiers and reached most Arab capitals. The enactment of the 14/9/1962 law which set the present Press code, with some modifications, marked this period. This law protected the Press from random abusive interventions and arbitrary attacks from the administration. It also took care to secure the state and the citizen against biased campaigns that make some newspapers go astray after aims which do not fit with the mission of the Press.
There existed some kind of balance between the Press and the two Television stations.
1976 to 1990
It is the darkest period in the history of the Lebanese Press. Like all Lebanese institutions, the Press suffered many set backs due to the 15 years of war that destroyed the infrastructure of the country.
During the different stages of the war, political parties and milicias issued approximately 150 newspapers. Some were occasional, some lasted for months and others for years. Most of them were illegal and ceased to appear at the end of the war.
1990 till Today
In the last few years the situation of the media changed and the newspapers tried to adapt to this development. In the past, Government and politicians were interested in the written media, today’s interest goes more towards the audiovisual. The main obstacles newspapers face nowadays stem from their economic situation and weak income compared to the initial investments.
Although expenditures on publicity and advertisement in the media attained 125 millions Dollars in 1995, the revenues of newspapers from advertisement decreased because they could not compete with the increasing number of audiovisual media appearing on the market. Despite the long economic crisis, due to the war and to the weakness of the State be it economic or political, the number of newspapers did not diminish. Up till 31 December 1996 Lebanon counted 57 licensed political daily newspapers, 56 in Beirut and one in Tripoli, 50 weekly magazines and 4 monthly ones throughout Lebanon out of which only 1S dailies, and 22 periodicals, are now published.
80% of morning dailies are sold by newspaper boys on the streets, 80% in bookshops and news stands and 2% by subscription. The selling of newspapers provides a large number of youth with a regular job. They are all males between 15 and 35. It is worth mentioning that free newspapers is not known in Lebanon, only lately, a weekly paper "Al-Wasseet" containing adds has been published and distributed freely. It is not included in school programs to train students to reading and using the Press as a pedagogy backing.
About professionalism, it
is worth noticing that nowadays most people working in the media are graduated
from the Lebanese University faculty of information and documentation which
was founded in 1969, or from private schools. The development of private
media schools and the faculty of the Lebanese University show to what extent
youth is interested in information.
In Lebanon there are two different and independent unions for the Press:
A – "THE PRESS UNION" which includes all the owners of newspapers and magazines that fulfill the requirements. It is presided over at present by Mr. Mohammed Baalbaki.
– "THE EDITORS UNION"
which includes professional journalists. It is presided over by Mr. Melhem
In fact both union constitute one single institution called the "Union of the Lebanese Press" an organization which secure the common interests and all that is related to the Lebanese Press.