Printer Friendly

Ayoon Wa Azan (The Last of the Doyens of the Lebanese Press).

The Last of the Doyens of the Lebanese Press

The Job of Our Era

The Boss, My Big Brother, My Friend, the Champion of Civil Liberties.

It is not that, now that Ghassan Tueni has passed away, I am listing his good qualities. His qualities are more than one piece of journalism written in haste can accommodate. If he had any shortcomings (and nobody is perfect), then I am aware of none, or have seen none throughout a continuous relationship between us that started near the end of the sixties.

In recent years, with Tueni overcome with sickness, I contacted his wife Shadia Khazen, to ask her about his health and check up on him. I would implore her that if he ever regained his health to contact me so I can meet him, even for one last time. However, he passed away without my wish having been fulfilled.

When we were young journalists, we used to look up at Ghassan Tueni as a role model, and we all hoped to walk in his footsteps.

The day I dreamed of often soon came, when the dear friend Samia Shami, his secretary and keeper of secrets, contacted me and said that the Boss wanted to see me.

I was editor of the Daily Star, and also shift leader at Reuters, and I was trying to conciliate the two jobs. My office was in the Union building near the Sanayeh Park, a few hundred meters away from the old offices of Al-Nahar, opposite the Ministry of Information building.

I was told that the Boss wanted to publish a weekly English-language newsletter containing analyses of political news, which is what we went on to do. The newsletter was aptly managed by colleague Riad Najib Al Rais, who was the main person in charge of it.

We agreed that I would come by at noon. What I recall from those days is that he used to take tablets to treat his ulcer, if I remember correctly. Sometimes, I used to feel embarrassed about disturbing him, as his work was exhausting enough. But nevertheless, he went on to lead a campaign to persuade MPs to vote for Suleiman Franjieh for President, and so I used to see many MPs entering and leaving his office. Suleiman Franjieh won by one vote, and many objected to the results, because the law stated that a majority of 50% plus one of the MPs was required. However, Franjieh had obtained 50 votes against 49 for his rival Elias Sarkos, and I heard some who said at the time that 50% of the MPs are the equivalent of 49.5 votes and the winner should obtain at least 50.5 votes. But I believe that President Fouad Chehab eventually advised the Speaker Sabri Hamadeh to declare Suleiman Franjieh the winner, and put an end to the controversy.

So unexpectedly, the journalist Ghassan Tueni became Deputy Prime Minister, then Minister for three times in a row, including Minister of Education, a post that caused him a great deal of trouble.

I suggested to him that we delay publishing the English newsletter because there were more pressing matters. However, he refused this and said that each matter had to be dealt with separately. Weeks later, Tueni started bemoaning Suleiman Franjieh and how he handled his post as president. He once told me that he had made a "mistake", and that Suleiman Franjieh was not even fit to be a mayor of a small village. Today, I admit that I had believed at the time that Ghassan Tueni was exaggerating, for how could he complain when he was a journalist facing a thousand challenges, and a major pillar of the government?

Many Lebanese from my generation will recall what happened next. Ghassan Tueni resigned from the cabinet a hundred days later, and Al-Nahar faced a severe boycott, so severe so that it was sometimes published without a single classified, because of public threats by the 'Zghortawis', even when the newspaper had the highest advertisement revenues among all other papers in Lebanon.

Ghassan Tueni was a warrior for the Truth. He was imprisoned more than once, and when the government referred newspapers for trial because we had published a statement by Prime Minister Rashid Solh in 1975, the editor in chief of Al-Nahar led the campaign to boycott courts to protest the attempt to bar us from publishing statements by the head of the executive branch. We were then all sentenced to prison but the sentences were not carried out, and Sayyed Musa Al-Sadr held a luncheon to honor us and to express his support for the freedom of the press.

Ghassan Tueni lost his daughter Nayla and then his first wife the poet Nadia Hamade, and his second son Makram in a traffic accident, then finally his eldest son Gebran who was assassinated (and the killers are yet to be brought to justice). While Job is a myth of the Hebrew Bible, Ghassan was one of us, and we were happy when he was happy (when was he ever happy?) and we were pained when he was in pain.

His favorite sobriquet was 'the Ambassador', and perhaps the happiest days of his life were when he served as his country's ambassador to the United Nations. My best meetings with him were those were that brought us together with Hayat Mroueh, as Tueni loved the children of his late fiend Kamel Mroueh like he loved his.

He has finally rested, after a journey of pains, hopes, disasters and triumphs, and left us all an example to be followed.

2012 Media Communications Group

Provided by an company
COPYRIGHT 2012 Al Bawaba (Middle East) Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Dar Al Hayat, International ed. (Beirut, Lebanon)
Article Type:Column
Date:Jun 9, 2012
Previous Article:The City's Keeper.
Next Article:The Syrian Reactor.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters