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ABL urges news media against distorting facts about banks.

Summary: The Association of Banks in Lebanon rose to the defense of the banking sector Thursday in the face of a "virulent campaign" from some news media and political quarters.

BEIRUT: The Association of Banks in Lebanon rose to the defense of the banking sector Thursday in the face of a "virulent campaign" from some news media and political quarters.

Using charts, tables and statistics, ABL officials refuted methodically allegations that the Lebanese banks were partly responsible for the large public debt and economic slowdown in the country.

Speaking to the publishers and editors of newspapers, magazine and TV stations as well as advertising agencies at the Phoenicia Hotel, ABL President Francois Bassil accused some columnists of portraying a false image of the banking sector for ulterior motives.

"Naturally, one of duties of the national news media is to shed light in a transparent and objective manner on crucial social and economic issue, in a bid to enlighten the public opinion. However, some news media and columnists with certain political connections have exploited the freedom of speech to wage a vicious campaign on a sector as vital as the banking sector. These practices are misleading the public and tarnish the image of a successful institution both internally and externally," he argued.

He warned that such dangerous practices could weaken, advertently or inadvertently, the confidence of investors depositors, expatriates, Arabs and foreigners in the Lebanese banking sector.

"This trust is our largest capital and the main pillar for the resilience and development of the banking sector," Bassil stressed.

ABL has called for a one-day meeting after certain news media systematically attacked the Lebanese banking sector.

Lebanese banks are careful to project a positive image about their operations both in Lebanon and abroad and are also keen to assure the international community that Lebanon was one of the first countries in the world to strengthen banking supervision, tighten anti-money laundering measures and implement Basel III requirements as well as enforcing Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.

For his part, the vice president of ABL Saad Azhari gave a brief account about the banks' role in shoring up the economy and meeting the urgent needs of the treasury and the state. "Of course, I say it proudly and transparently, that we in the banking sector are institutions that seek profits and this is a condition for our continuation and good performance. But our profits are also the profits for the people," Azhari said.

He added that there was no alternative to the banking services to meet the needs of the individuals and companies, thanks to bank loans.

"If it wasn't for the banks, the Lebanese state would have deferred in the payments of its debts and would not have been able to meet its commitments and obligations."

Following the presentations and speeches, some newspaper and magazine editors remarked about the role of the banks in Lebanon and urged them to increase cooperation with all news media. Some even urged the banks to increase their advertising in the papers and magazines to help these news media survive the difficult prevailing economic conditions.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:7LEBA
Date:Oct 3, 2014
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