BEIRUT: Annahar elected to print a blank issue Thursday, a form of silent protest in the midst of perpetual unease surrounding a multitude of facets of Lebanese life.
"People are fed up and we're still waiting for the political class to make good on its promises as we stare at one of the most consequential periods in our history," Editor-in-Chief Nayla Tueni told reporters gathered at Annahar's newsroom.
Lebanese awoke Thursday morning to the curious sight of a blank newspaper, both the print and online issues, as a mark of protest at the establishment's inability to address the number of challenges facing Lebanon, from economic and social unrest to a six months long government formation crisis.
"God knows how many days we'll have to wait to see a Cabinet formed, we cannot continue treading the same path," Tueni said in an assertive voice.
Experts have continuously sounded alarm bells over the dire state of Lebanon's coffers, the erosion of its environment, rising health hazards and the failure to implement much-needed reforms to tackle these issues.
The government debt is currently equal to a grotesque 153 percent of its gross domestic product, behind only Japan and Greece, while the country's environment has been consumed owing to the ongoing waste crisis which has taken its toll on seas, beaches, and freshwater reserves; and subsequently the population's well-being. 17,000 new cancer cases were recorded in 2018, the highest in the region, with 361 and 312 cancer cases per 100,000 individuals for males and females respectively expected by 2020.
"Lebanese have the right to live a healthy and prosperous life, free of unnecessary fears and worries," Tueni said. "We can't go on like this, our politicians need to act before its too late."
Editor-in-Chief Nayla Tueni pictured holding one of the blank newspapers during the press conference on Thursday, October 11, 2018 (Annahar)
The move, which Tueni said has been in the works for weeks, took Lebanese by surprise, with many wondering what pushed the Editor-in-Chief to go to such length.
Flanked by fellow journalists and editors, Tueni asserted Annahar's willingness to persevere in the midst of the economic slump and downturn of press media worldwide.
"The blank pages are a wake-up call to everyone concerned."
"We believe in our country and we will continue fighting for it."
Touching on the struggles facing the press, both locally and globally, Tueni acknowledged the daunting task at hand yet reiterated her "faith in Annahar."
"If the country is doing well, the newspaper will be fine," she said.
A number of established local newspapers have stumbled in recent years, shutting their doors and printing presses as the world shifts into the digital age.
The pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat, founded in 1946, closed its Beirut office in June, meeting the unfortunate fate of Al-Safir which seized its operations in 2016 after 42 years of service.
"What will become of Lebanon without a free and independent press," she asked.
"Our message is simple, we want a nation that is thriving."
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