Lebanon’s Hariri pulls plug on ailing family TV outlet

Lebanon’s Hariri pulls plug on ailing family TV outlet
Saad Hariri described the move as suspending work until the Future TV network could be re-launched after a financial restructuring. (Reuters)
Updated 18 September 2019

Lebanon’s Hariri pulls plug on ailing family TV outlet

Lebanon’s Hariri pulls plug on ailing family TV outlet
  • Hariri said the decision to close the ailing TV network “is not easy for me or for the audience of the Future Movement”

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced on Wednesday that he will temporarily close a TV network owned by his family to allow for major financial restructuring.

The suspension of the Future TV network follows financial struggles stretching back years and recent strikes by employees over unpaid wages. Future TV was launched in 1993 by Hariri’s father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005.

Earlier this year, Hariri halted the print edition of Al-Mustaqbal newspaper, also owned by his family, turning it into a digital newspaper.

The Lebanese leader, who heads the Future Movement political party, said that the decision to close the ailing TV network “is not easy for me or for the audience of the Future Movement, the generation of founders, workers and millions of Lebanese and Arab viewers, who have accompanied the station for more than a quarter of a century.”

The decision to suspend the TV station took Lebanon’s media and political sector by surprise. The station has struggled since the beginning of August when employees in the news and programs departments halted work in protest against nonpayment of wages. Since then it has broadcast only rerun programs.

FASTFACT

The Lebanese prime minister suspended the Future TV network following financial struggles stretching back years and recent strikes by employees over unpaid wages.

Imad Assi, the station’s editor-in-chief, told Arab News that a meeting on Thursday will determine “the shape of the next stage, whether the station will continue to broadcast ‘reruns’ or turn off its lights completely while waiting for restructuring and restarting.”

Hariri said that his father “wanted Future TV to highlight Lebanon’s diversity, coexistence and passion for culture, freedom, openness and joy.”

The station’s suspension “will allow it to address accumulated financial burdens and prepare for a new phase in the coming months, with a face that shines on Lebanon and the Arabs and with a new look that fits the taste of Lebanese men and women and their national, economic, social, and developmental interests,” he said.

Hariri apologized to workers at Future TV and Al-Mustaqbal newspaper, saying that “harsh conditions have forced us to take a difficult decision to suspend work,”and guaranteed that employee rights will be protected. The station has more than 300 employees and freelancers.

Aref Al-Abed, Future TV’s director of news and political programs in 1997 and 1998, said: “What has happened is a pity. A political media establishment has fallen. The station was a bastion of mutual coexistence, unlike other TV stations.”

The loss of the station will leave a major vacuum in Lebanon that will not be easy to fill, Al-Abed said.

“Future TV was more comprehensive (than other networks) since it employed people of all confessions and political affiliations,” he said.

Al-Abed said that the most difficult part of Hariri’s decision was the dismissal of hundreds of employees, some of whom had spent 26 years at the station, at a time when the media sector in Lebanon is in crisis.

The Lebanese leader’s announcement sparked a wave of reaction on social media. TV presenter Marcel Ghanem tweeted: “I salute Saad Hariri who was forced to take this action, hoping to see the TV station one more time with a new look.” 

Another presenter tweeted: “Hariri is ending a whole epoch
in history.”


Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai in custody after fraud charge

Updated 03 December 2020

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai in custody after fraud charge

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai in custody after fraud charge
  • Authorities have intensified a crackdown on key opposition figures in the Chinese-ruled city
  • ‘This is about dirtying Jimmy up. It’s Beijing’s policing brought to Hong Kong’

HONG KONG: Hong Kong media tycoon and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai was denied bail on Thursday on a charge of fraud related to the lease of a building that houses his Apple Daily, an anti-government tabloid.
Authorities have intensified a crackdown on key opposition figures in the Chinese-ruled city since Beijing circumvented the local legislature and imposed sweeping national security legislation on the global financial center on June 30.
While Lai’s fraud charge did not fall under the national security law, it marks the latest crackdown on pro-democracy figures in the former British colony, which was handed back to Beijing in 1997 with a promise to maintain the free-wheeling city’s way of life for 50 years.
Critics say the law crushes freedoms in the global financial center, while supporters say it will bring stability after prolonged anti-China, pro-democracy protests last year.
On Wednesday, one of Hong Kong’s most prominent democracy activists Joshua Wong was jailed for more than 13 months for his role in an unlawful anti-government rally in 2019, the toughest and most high-profile sentencing of an opposition figure this year.
Lai, 73, and two senior executives of his company Next Digital, were charged on Wednesday on suspicion of concealing from and falsely representing the use of their office to their landlord, a public corporation set up by the Hong Kong government.
The charge stated they were not using the office space as permitted under the lease between 2016 to 2020, and had sub-let a part of the premises, resulting in benefits to Apple Daily.
Reuters was not immediately able to reach Lai or his lawyers for comment. Next Digital suspended trading on Thursday morning, pending an announcement containing “inside information.”
“This is about dirtying Jimmy up. It’s Beijing’s policing brought to Hong Kong,” Mark Simon, an associate of Lai, told Reuters.
An ardent critic of Beijing, Lai has been detained since Wednesday after reporting to the police for his arrest in August. Prosecutors applied to adjourn the case until April next year, according to local media.
In August, Lai was arrested after about 200 police officers swooped on his offices. Hong Kong police later said they had arrested nine men and one woman for suspected offenses including “collusion with a foreign country/external elements to endanger national security, conspiracy to defraud” and others.
Suspicion of colluding with foreign forces carries a maximum sentence of life in jail under the new security law.
Lai has been a frequent visitor to Washington, where he has met officials, including US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to rally support for Hong Kong democracy, prompting Beijing to label him a “traitor.”
The security law was introduced on June 30 and punishes anything China considers subversion, secession, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.