Lebanon’s radical leftist newspaper, Al Akhbar is the latest media outlet to grab a virtual fistful of WikiLeaks documents and start making waves – the only Arab newspaper in the region to do so.
But even as the paper supports feminist causes and equal rights for homosexuals, it also is careful to back the Shi’ite Hizbullah terrorist organization.
According to majority owner Hassan Khalil, a London banker, the paper is intended to be profitable, “without bowing to any government… We wanted to make something new, a truly independent newspaper,” he told the New York Times in an interview published Tuesday.
Khalil’s co-owners are members of the paper’s staff; Al Akhbar is not funded by any Arab government, unlike nearly every other newspaper in the Arab world. Nevertheless, area reporters commented wryly to writer NYT Robert F. Worth that claims of independence rang rather hollow, given the paper’s “protexia” [protected status, ed.] under the banner of Lebanon’s leading terrorist organization. Two journalists who worked for An Nahar, a pro-American newspaper, were murdered in 2005.
A number of the Al Akhbar’s staff attended university in the United States. Khaled Saghieh, the managing editor, attended the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, where he left a PhD program to help start the paper. Omar Nashabe, editor of the Justice page, earned a PhD in criminal justice from the State University of New York in Albany. The relatively young age of its editors, combined with its brash style have reportedly combined to make the newspaper a “must-read” among Lebanon’s up-and-coming social set, even with its relatively low circulation figures.
With a website that is getting as many, or more hits than other Lebanese newspapers, Al Akhbar says it is now planning an English-language gateway to be launched early next year.
Ibrahim al-Amine, editorial chairman, is not nearly as progressive, describing his own personal goals to include replacing oppressive Arab governments, redrawing Lebanon’s colonial-era borders, removing Israel from the map, and sending the Jews back to Europe.