Lebanon newspaper goes blank to protest political crisis

An-Nahar's chief executive Nayla Tueni holds a blank edition of an-Nahar newspaper during a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon October 11, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 11 October 2018
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Lebanon newspaper goes blank to protest political crisis

  • An-Nahar, which was founded in 1933, published eight blank pages in print
  • Despite more than five months of wrangling, premier-designate Saad Hariri has been unable to form a new government

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s oldest newspaper An-Nahar went out to newsstands completely blank on Thursday to protest a political deadlock and economic woes in the tiny Mediterranean country.
Despite more than five months of wrangling, premier-designate Saad Hariri has been unable to form a new government, putting a precious $11-billion aid package at risk.
An-Nahar, which was founded in 1933, published eight blank pages in print and linkless white boxes on its main page online, posting headlines but no news items.
“People are tired and An-Nahar is tired of writing up your pretexts and repeated empty promises,” editor-in-chief Nayla Al-Tueni said at a press conference in Beirut.
“God knows how long we will wait to see” a decision on a cabinet line-up, she said.
A new government would be able to sign off on billions of dollars in aid pledged at a conference in April, notably to help boost the country’s ailing infrastructure.
But political parties in the small multi-confessional country have been locked in dispute over the makeup of a future cabinet.
“The situation is no longer bearable,” Tueni said, adding, however, that the newspaper was not taking sides in the ongoing wrangling.
The blank issue aimed to express “our deep moral sense of responsibility as a press institution over the disastrous state of the country,” she said.
Economic growth in Lebanon has plummeted in the wake of a series of political crises, compounded by the war since 2011 in neighboring Syria.
An-Nahar has faced financial difficulties in recent years, while other landmark newspapers have shuttered.
Successive governments in Lebanon have been unable to address a waste management crisis, or improve an electricity grid that causes daily power cuts.
In recent days, Lebanese have complained of wastewater arriving in their taps at home, with activists sharing images on social media of vegetables soaking in murky water.
The tiny country, which weathered its own civil war from 1975 to 1990, has a multi-confessional system of government that seeks to represent all religious sects.


Twitter publishes tweet trove from ‘clumsy’ Iran regime campaigns

Updated 18 October 2018
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Twitter publishes tweet trove from ‘clumsy’ Iran regime campaigns

  • Twitter found 770 Twitter accounts that it traced back to Iran
  • Nearly 4,000 accounts affiliated with Russian troll farm

WASHINGTON: Twitter published a trove of some 10 million tweets that it said are potentially the product of state-backed operations by Russia and Iran, shedding new light on the scale and nature of misinformation campaigns mounted by the two nations.
Twitter said on Wednesday that it had identified 3,841 accounts affiliated with the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, a Russian “troll farm” that has been indicted by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller for attempts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
It found another 770 Twitter accounts that it traced back to Iran.
“We are making this data available with the goal of encouraging open research and investigation of these behaviors from researchers and academics around the world,” Twitter said in a statement on its “elections integrity” site.
In total, the exposed accounts shared more than 10 million tweets and 2 million images and videos, Twitter said, before being taken down.
Twitter had already made public the existence of tweets it believes to be the product of foreign misinformation campaigns, but the release of the tweets themselves on Wednesday will allow researchers to learn much more about Russia and Iran’s disinformation efforts on Twitter since 2016.
It comes less than one month before US Congressional elections which are already the subject of foreign-directed social media campaigns, according to senior US intelligence officials.
The release shows that both the Iranian and Russian operations started out as campaigns to support countries’ governments at home, but the Moscow-based effort expanded into an “offensive weapon” targeted at the United States, said Ben Nimmo, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, which has seen the tweets.
“The Iranian operation was clumsy. It tried to use social media to draw people toward pro-regime messaging sites,” said Nimmo, whose lab published a detailed analysis of the tweets on Wednesday.
“The Russian operation was much more skilled. It masqueraded as real Americans to turn real Americans against Hillary Clinton, and against each other,” Nimmo added, referring to Donald Trump’s presidential election challenger.