Yalla, Bye: Iconic Lebanese daily shuts after 43 years

Yalla, Bye: Iconic Lebanese daily shuts after 43 years
Lebanese daily As-Safir printed its last copy on Saturday as the country's print media struggles to adapt to the digital age. Could more newspapers follow suit in 2017?
2 min read
31 December, 2016
"The nation without As-Safir" read As-Safir's final front page on Saturday [AFP]

The Lebanese daily As-Safir - the self-proclaimed "voice of the voiceless" - published its final issue on Saturday in the midst of a crisis for Lebanon's print media.

An editorial printed on the front page of the Lebanese daily's final issue on Saturday was titled simply The nation without As-Safir stating that the newspaper had "become exhausted" but would "continue to see some light on the horizon of the profession".

As-Safir was founded a year before Lebanon's Civil War (1975-1990) broke out and was known for its pan-Arab outlook and criticism of US foreign policy in the Middle East.

During the civil war era, As-Safir was largely funded by controversial figures including Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, Iraq's Saddam Hussein, and Yasser Arafat, head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation [PLO].

The newspaper was seen to promote Arab nationalism and the Palestinian cause. 

In the process a rivalry developed with the An-Nahar newspaper, founded by Gebran Tueni in 1933, which was seen as standing for Lebanese pluralism.

In the aftermath of the war As-Safir sought investment through numerous regional sources including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran, and became known for its support of the Iran-backed Lebanese Shia paramilitary group Hizballah and the al-Assad's regime in Syria.

Around 120 employees - including journalists, photographers, administrators, technicians, and security - are set to lose their jobs. 

In March, the newspaper's founder Talal Salman informed staff members that the paper would close its doors at the beginning of April.

However, a last minute injection of funding saw the daily push on with Salman stating that As-Safir had "decided to remain operational, even if it is for a month or two".

Lebanese newspapers have been affected by global slumps experienced by many print media attempting to adapt to the digital age, and slumps in funding from regional powers. 

Some employee salaries at An-Nahar are said not to have been paid in 15 months, with one employee revealing to AFP that 40 staff members had been told not to turn up to work in January until the paper had resolved its money problems.

Commenting on the decline of As-Safir and general woes experienced by Lebanon's print media the Lebanese journalists' union said that print media, the "national memory of Lebanon", was facing a "major national crisis".