SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

SKF's Ayman Mhanna at the International Donors' Conference for Lebanon

Thursday , 03 December 2020

Ayman Mhanna, Executive Director of the Samir Kassir Foundation, was invited to take part in the December 2, 2020 international donors' videoconference, convened by French President Emmanuel Macron and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, to support Lebanon's recovery and humanitarian needs after the August 4 Beirut blast. Mhanna was among the seven representatives of the Lebanese civil society to address the 27 heads of states and governments and leaders of 10 international organizations who attended the conference. He delivered the following message:

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General,

Thank you for giving me the invaluable opportunity to join the conference today and for the indefatigable support you have provided to Lebanon.

The Samir Kassir Foundation, which I have the honor to represent, is one of the leading freedom of expression and media development organizations in the Levant region.

We have been observing the violations targeting the media in Lebanon for many years. If the press is not free, it cannot speak truth to power. It will remain captured by the same political interests, whose corruption and arrogance have led to the destruction of our capital and to the collapse of the economy.

A complacent press is, to a certain extent, co-responsible for the past tragedies and for the next ones that Lebanon is doomed to experience with the current political class.

This is why, shortly after the blast, the Foundation launched the Media Recovery Fund to help journalists who were hit physically, psychologically, and professionally by the explosion and the economic depression. Our message was clear: If you cannot afford to rebuild your house, to pay the tuition fees for your kids and your family’s health insurance, do not knock on the door of a corrupt politician. We will help you. We have your back. In return, just be a good journalist who verifies, who asks the right questions, who investigates.

Moving forward, and in order to keep an eye on the reconstruction and the relief and to understand what happened on August 4 and what led to August 4, more than ever, we need support for free, truthful and professional investigative journalism.

We need to support the safety of journalists. 175 media professionals were physically assaulted in the last year by the security forces (often using equipment donated by our international partners) and by supporters of the governing political forces. Attackers must be held accountable, especially if they used gear provided by your taxpayers and if they underwent training your taxpayers paid for.

Otherwise, that same political class will keep stealing, will keep attacking journalists, will keep manipulating the judiciary, and will keep lying to the Lebanese people and to the international community.

We need to build back better. The missing ingredients from all previous relief and aid processes, after every crisis Lebanon has gone through, were accountability and justice. These should be non-negotiable conditions for the aid. We owe it to the victims and to the Lebanese people. Accountability and justice require a strong, safe, and sustainable free media sector.

Thank you.

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