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The ambiguity of being wanted

Economic success and free press

by Executive Editors

Journalists can tell you a thing or three about what it can mean to be wanted – most of them either unpleasant or seriously dangerous. 

 The first common experience of being a wanted, or in-demand journalist is that of being a “useful idiot”. Almost everyone who signals their desire to talk to the media simply wants to sell something. It might be a “scientific” opinion, an individual political image, a panacea for assorted social ills, or perhaps an ideology and entire political system. If general interest media are the seller’s target, it is not an idea that is being peddled. It might be an (overblown) success story, a brand, or a “unique” and “unmissable” (neither term being quite logical) vehicle, fashion item, food concept, travel destination, smoke, drink, bargain, free lunch, or other con.  

 The second, rarer but still all too common, experience of being a wanted journalist is that of being a species at risk of extinction. Working journalists are murdered in embassies, shot on streets and in jungles, taken from airplanes, detained from street side cafes, exposed to duplicitous litigation, kidnapped, forced to recant articles, and tortured. Every exposure of a journalist to such violence is a horror story of being hunted for doing their job. 

 As a media organization operating in one of the world’s most conflicted regions, Executive is aware that the ability to report, conduct and publish journalistic work is being tested. Yet not by the unstable political and economic climate, but by its ramifications  – inadequate industry standards, protection or regulation. 

 Executive’s Business Development Special Report on the media industry published in this issue has been designed and compiled with this in mind; as a call to action for the corporate transformation of Lebanese media enterprises. Businesses need to build strategic models and attract investment; embark on innovative technological solutions, adopt codes of conduct and advisory boards, and ensure transparent behaviors.

 We may be journalists, but we need to think like business people; retain business models that can grow value and ensure the future and integrity of press freedom. Lebanon used to lay the path for media outlets in the Arab world. Today, the industry is flagging; bogged down by politically aligned news companies, absent business strategy and weak regulation, against a backdrop of unprecedented developments in global media. 

Without sustainable business models, the safety and security of journalism and journalists cannot be guaranteed, and ethical practices risk falling by the wayside. Executive editors use the issuance of our report to voice solidarity with journalists working in 28 countries who suffer “very bad” press freedom environments, according to the 2022 World Press Freedom Index by press freedom advocacy group Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF).  

 The Index, informed by the opinions of scholars, activists and journalists, sees Lebanon as one of more than 40 countries with a “difficult” environment. Seventy countries, or nearly 40 percent of the 180 nations covered, are flagged as having very bad or difficult working environments for the media.  

We demand that governments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) – almost all are seriously or very seriously lacking in matters of freedom of expression – upgrade the legal protections of journalists and their working environments so that the dangers of information wars, antagonistic partisanship, and detrimental social media can be mitigated.

 This magazine reiterates its commitment to stand up for press freedom in Lebanon and the Arab world by promoting the advancing, governance and professionalism of media enterprises.  Not wanting to be satisfied with raising our voice in advocacy of press freedom, however, Executive advocates a third way in which fighters for press freedom, that is professional, fact-based journalism as personified by individuals and media enterprises in the MENA region, are “wanted.” 

 This is to say, quality journalism made in Beirut is wanted and needed for social and economic development, and this constitutes the internal driving force behind the media enterprise development project featured in this issue. In 2022, as in the previous two years, political disruptions, including escalations of autocratic rule, have been proliferating in MENA and appear to roll back developments of popular sovereignty. Economies are tumbling from one crisis to the next, not only in Lebanon.

 The positive correlation between freedom of expression, rights of the individual, and economic equity may be not as strong as journalists love to think. But unless media enterprises are built on foundations of economic growth and value, their viability and development will remain limited.

 It has been demonstrated time and again that a diverse, well informed society with a base of mutual obligations and agreed tenets of moral behavior, is better positioned for development than a society that is steeped in fear and unfreedom.  Likewise, with the same attitude, media businesses bolstered by quality skills and resources will invite journalistic and economic success.

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Executive Editors

Executive Editors are the virtuosos behind Executive’s compelling narratives. Over decades, our editorial team has applied a blend of seasoned expertise, intellectual wit, and a discerning eye to bring you insightful and engaging stories that eschew sensationalism
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