Beirut- The Lebanese Information Minister, Melhem Riachi, has spent great efforts to draft an inclusive plan aiming to upgrade the Lebanese media amid major challenges, newspaper crisis, problems of TV shows, and complaints of journalists about their violated rights. Since he was appointed as minister, Riachi has communicated with all the different components of the sector from owners to editors, seeking to harmonize their point of views and to put an end to some flaws dominating the Lebanese media. The minister held many meetings with major entities from the Lebanese media sector and bagged many suggestions that will be applied soon.
Yet, the main decision he took and has tried hard to implement since he was appointed was to replace the Ministry of Information with a Ministry of Communication and Dialogue, in order to promote the country’s media in line with the 21st century, as the minister stated.
Minister Riachi looks at media from a modern perspective and his performance mainly focuses on the future. Riachi told Asharq Al-Awsat that he is not interested in serving another ministerial term, but he insists on setting the cornerstone for the replacement project.
Commenting on his meeting with his Saudi counterpart Adel Al-Turaifi in Riyadh, Riachi, who teaches “geostrategic Communication at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK), said that it was fruitful and revealed that both parties have agreed on sending Saudi media experts to take a closer look on the Lebanese media sector’s needs. Concerning his suggestion to replace the Information Ministry with a Ministry of Communication and Dialogue, Riachi considered that the biggest harm afflicting the media has been caused by the Ministry of information itself. The Minister saw that today almost all citizens have smartphones and can easily practice the role of the current ministry, which only provides people with government opinions and its regular theories.
Minister Riachi adds that the word “Information” has become useless and should be replaced with communication to cope with the spread of communication tools that have allowed people to interact in different directions at the same time. Therefore, he said he backs the replacement of the current ministry, especially that Lebanon has always been a hub for dialogues, communication, and settlements among different parties.
The minister said that providing Beirut with the required logistics and infrastructure will empower Lebanon and enable it to host major events like the major peace talks that take place in cities like Geneva. Riachi adds that he aims at implementing this strategy, at least by taking the first step and submitting the project to the Council of Ministers.
Riachi also said that the Syndicate of Press Editors shall have the same position as other syndicates, and that it shall include all editors without exceptions. He noted that a new law will be endorsed to cover all the aspects of the syndicate too.
Riachi saw that editors should keep on writing even when they get older as their experience gets richer.
The minister revealed that he has given experts 72 hours to deliver suggestions concerning the amendments of the media law, and that the endorsement of these amendments is expected within a year.
Speaking of the hard financial conditions dominating newspapers, Riachi said that the Lebanese government will contribute to a sound transfer of these outlets from paper to digital mode within medium term periods. He added that the government is working on many fiscal exemptions for employees in this sector, like fees of social security services and customs.
Riachi considered that the media content falls under the responsibility of media experts and university professors. He also hoped that all workers in the media field to preserve freedom and ethics.
It is worth noting that Riachi is currently working on different laws, including the law of media ethics, support of newspapers, fiscal exemptions for media outlets, and amendments of editors and journalism syndicates.