Lebanon newspaper goes black to raise alarm over political crisis

A man checks a copy of the Lebanese English-language newspaper ‘The Daily Star’, which refrained from publishing news articles in its print edition in protest against the ‘deteriorating situation’ in Lebanon. (AFP)
Updated 08 August 2019

Lebanon newspaper goes black to raise alarm over political crisis

  • The newspaper’s Lebanon and online editor Joseph Habboush said the move sought to convey alarm to the ruling class
  • Lebanon is one of the world’s most indebted countries, with public debt now standing at more than 150 percent of GDP

BEIRUT: A prominent Lebanese daily Thursday appeared on newsstands with a black front page in the second such protest by a local paper in less than a year over the country’s lingering political crisis.
“Lebanon,” read the cover of The Daily Star, the country’s only English-language newspaper.
On 10 blank pages inside, it listed a string of woes including “government deadlock,” “pollution” “unemployment,” “illegal weapons” and “public debt.”
“Wake up before it’s too late!” it concluded on its back page, with the issue’s single picture of a cedar, the country’s national emblem.
The newspaper’s Lebanon and online editor Joseph Habboush said the move sought to convey alarm to the ruling class.
“We wanted to deliver a warning to the politicians and officials that the situation has reached an alarming level,” he said.
In October last year, the country’s oldest newspaper An-Nahar printed an entirely blank issue to protest a political deadlock over forming a cabinet.
The government was formed in January after an eight-month hiatus, but the cabinet has now not met for over a month since a shootout killed a minister’s two bodyguards.
In a rare comment, the US embassy on Wednesday warned against any inflammation of tensions over the incident in Qabr el-Shamoun on June 30.
“The US has conveyed in clear terms to Lebanese authorities our expectation that they will handle this matter in a way that achieves justice without politically motivated inflammation of sectarian or communal tensions,” it said.
Growth in Lebanon has plummeted in the wake of endless political deadlocks in recent years, compounded by the 2011 breakout of civil war in neighboring Syria.
The country hosts 1.5 million Syrians who have fled the conflict, often blamed in Lebanon for putting pressure on an already struggling economy.
Unemployment stands at more than 20 percent, according to the government.
Lebanon is one of the world’s most indebted countries, with public debt now standing at more than 150 percent of GDP, according to the finance ministry.
Successive governments have been unable to address a waste management crisis or improve an electricity grid that causes daily power cuts, a phenomenon that has long outlived Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war.
The print media has also been facing a crisis, with several publications either closing or disappearing in print.
A source at the Daily Star who asked not to be named said employees had not yet been paid wages for June and July.
The Daily Star is a private newspaper owned by the family of Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, according to press watchdog Reporters Without Borders.
Since July 30, staff at the Hariri-owned Future TV have gone on strike over unpaid salaries, with only re-runs aired for around a week.


India shuts down Internet in hotspot after deadly protests

Updated 13 December 2019

India shuts down Internet in hotspot after deadly protests

  • Protests erupted this week after the government introduced new legislation that many in the far-flung northeast believe will give citizenship to immigrants
  • On Friday morning thousands gathered in central Guwahati as riot police looked on

GUWAHATI: Internet access was cut in India’s northeastern city of Guwahati on Friday as thousands gathered for fresh protests against a new citizenship law, a day after police shot dead two demonstrators.
Protests erupted this week after the government introduced new legislation that many in the far-flung northeast believe will give citizenship to immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, and which other critics say is anti-Muslim.
On Friday morning thousands gathered in central Guwahati as riot police looked on, with residents hurrying out to buy essentials.
No fresh violence was reported but Guwahati and other areas remained littered from the detritus of recent days, with some roads blocked by fallen trees, concrete poles, stones and iron railings. Many cash machines have run out of cash and most petrol stations were also shut.
A local government official said that Internet access in the Guwahati, the main city of Assam state, had been cut and an AFP reporter confirmed that connections appeared to have been suspended.
The Meghalaya state government has also cut off mobile Internet, with parts of the capital Shillong brought under curfew since Thursday evening.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was planning to scrap a visit to the city due to begin on Sunday as the security situation deteriorated, media reported Friday. The Japanese leader had been slated to hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On Thursday, police had fired live and blank rounds as thousands of demonstrators in Guwahati and elsewhere took to the streets, some vandalising property and torching vehicles.
The two demonstrators killed in the city were among around 20 people being treated in hospital, “a few” of whom had gunshot wounds, said Ramen Talukdar, a doctor at a Guwahati hospital.
Hundreds of passengers stuck at Guwahati airport were brought to the city on government buses with police escort in the early hours of Friday morning.
Several thousand troops have been drafted in to help police, who fired tear gas and charged demonstrators with batons, in recent days.
Security was increased at the Bangladeshi consulate in Guwahati after a vehicle in the consul’s convoy was attacked Wednesday by mobs, the foreign ministry in Dhaka said.
“They cant settle anyone in our motherland. This is unacceptable. We will die but not allow outsiders to settle here,” Manav Das, a protester told AFP on Friday.
“We will defeat the government with the force of the people and the government will be forced to revoke the law,” said local activist Samujal Battacharya.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), signed into law by the Indian president late Thursday, allows for the fast-tracking of applications from religious minorities from three neighboring countries, but not Muslims.
For Islamic groups, the opposition and rights groups, it is part of Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda to marginalize India’s 200 million Muslims. He denies this.
The US State Department on Thursday urged India to “protect the rights of its religious minorities,” according to Bloomberg.
But many in India’s northeast object for different reasons, fearing that immigrants from Bangladesh — many of them Hindus — will become citizens, taking jobs and weakening the local culture.
The chief ministers of the states of Punjab in the north and Kerala in the south also said that they would not implement the law, the Hindu daily reported.
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