BEIRUT: From a blogger to a TV host and a radio station manager, Joe Maalouf is relentlessly fighting for social justice and freedom of expression.
However, behind this undaunted and established man was a fearful young child who suffered from toxic family dynamics. After his parents got divorced, Maalouf was separated from his mother. He then moved to an orphanage and settled there for approximately three years.
“I am grateful for all the experiences I went through because they shaped the man I am today. I want my journey to be a message to all the juveniles who have had family problems. I want to show them that they can surpass all their past and start from zero and be self-made like I am,” Maalouf told Annahar.
As a child, his only getaway was the world of radio and music. He used to hold a huge radio and walk around the streets recording the sounds of people’s footsteps and the voice of the grocery man to later on mix the tunes.
When he was 15 years old, he accompanied his father’s friend who worked in a radio station and observed the way DJs work. His curiosity bred knowledge and he became a self-taught DJ himself. Today, he plays in a few resorts and clubs as a hobby, but refuses to take money for it.
Throughout his teenage and young adolescent years, Maalouf was preparing to start his own radio station. He soon became the general manager of Jaras Scoop FM. He then launched his social radio show "Ana Horr” (I am free), where he boldly investigates a lot of social cases.
“I couldn’t tame the rage I had from my unfortunate childhood circumstances and wanted to do something about it. Something from the inside drove me to start that show; I was angry from all the society and I wanted to rebel. Nevertheless, I learned how to control the anger and turn it into productivity,” Maalouf noted.
In the world of television, he launched TV shows of similar concepts: "Enta Hor” (You are free) on MTV Lebanon, "Hki Jelis” (speak upfront) on LBCI, and most recently “Hawa el-Horriyeh” (a breath of freedom) on LBCI. The ripple effects of Maalouf's segments were seen every day on social media platforms where many people engaged.
In his shows, Maalouf addresses issues affecting Lebanese citizens at all levels. Most of these cases were also resolved through the support of the public opinion, his persistence, and legal connections. Yet, he sometimes have to face many lawsuits and backlashes.
“We receive more than 100 cases daily, but we choose the most dangerous ones. We help people on and off air; but frankly, the ones we showcase are the ones that present TV material. After all, we are a TV show,” he said.
His hard work and efficiency caught the attention of the Union for the Protection of Juveniles’, which shortly appointed him as its ambassador in Lebanon. His upcoming plans include a project for the juveniles in prison, in support of the Minister of Interior Raya El-Hassan.
As for his show, Maalouf lately announced that he is moving back to MTV Lebanon with a new show called “Bel Wikeleh” (on behalf of).
“The only thing changing is the screen, the set, and the logo, but I’m the same person with the same mission. I don’t want to get into details but the move wasn’t related to salaries. I was very patient before leaving LBCI, but it’s my future and my team’s future. At the end, it’s my job and I need to choose what's the best for myself,” Maalouf noted.
Apart from his show, Maalouf has a busy schedule. Earlier this year, he represented the Middle East in the Global Conference for Media Freedom in London. He also had some interventions in panels where he discussed hate speech, salaries of the reporters in Lebanon, and the political money that controls the media.
Additionally, he will be participating in the International Conference on Mental Health and Psychological Support in Crisis Situations in Amsterdam.
He told Annahar what he considers as his key for success.
“When I put something in my mind, I don’t sleep on it; obstacles may make the process longer or affect my mood but they never stop me. At first, when I started I was a little kid who wasn’t known. Today, I gain strength from people’s support. It’s a huge responsibility and an added value that people rely on me today.”
Annahar's "Faces of Lebanon" is an occasional series that takes a look at talented young Lebanese. We encourage you nominating candidates and telling us their story. Send your nominations to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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