Annahar's New Website

annahar's new website

- Fresh, new look -

The new design is a big improvement on its predecessor. It has a clean look and has lost the bells and whistles that made it slow to launch and annoying to browse. Over all, the website is now more logical, easier to read and generally much fresher to look at.

I have a few (minor) usability notes though:

The horizontal navigation menu sometimes feels like a treasure-hunt. For example, to go from the section ( مقالات ) to the sub-section (كتابنا) , you have to drag your mouse pointer precisely in that narrow blue strip or you’ll have to do it all over again. Clearly no thought was given to older people who don’t necessarily have the hand stability of surgeons.

The site is surprisingly “flat” in the sense that sub-sections (like محليات ) have dedicated pages but main sections (like سياسة) don’t. I say surprisingly because these middle pages can have ads in them and generate revenue.

There is no page dedicated to today’s columns and Op-Eds. We do find them in a home page sidebar, but this could be confusing to users who come from search engines straight to deep pages. We do have a page with smiling photos of writers. Very sweet, but not useful to those who want to know who wrote what today.

A few final nitpicks: The links to Facebook, PDF and Audio edition are dead, the RSS icon points to the YouTube Channel and the grey search box lacks prominence and could easily be missed (but kudos for keeping Yamli). Obviously, this is still a work in progress.

All in all, I’m happy with the new redesign and I’m hopeful that the rough edges will be fixed with time.

Related: Review of the new Daily Star ‘s website redesign.

Interviewing Dictators

Gawker on Barbara Walter’s bad interviewing posture with Assad:

she approached the encounter like a disappointed peer—Bashar, how could you?—rather than an interrogator granted a rare opportunity to force a world-historical villain to answer for his crimes. Can you imagine any reporter asking, say, Joseph Stalin this question: “Do you think that your forces cracked down too hard?”

You could be tempted to defend her as having little choice. Maybe she was forced to choose between access to the president and mildness?. But that would be a very bad miscalculation; Bashar needed the media more than the media needed him.

Related: How to Tell if You’re a Miserable Murderous Middle East Tyrant?
And: Turns out the Syrian Regime Paid for Asma el Assad’s Vogue Profile

Marcel Ghanem Responds To Criticism of LBC Coverage of Myriam Ashckar

He misses the entire point.

His defense is disingenuous and is suited more for an aggrieved relative than for the media covering the event. The point is not that he is not “allowed” to be angry (notice his classic use of conspiratorial  language), the point is that the media covering the event should put things in context and not  fan the flames.

Yes, the reporters covering the event should show us the extent of the family’s anger and grief, but they should not editorialize, wag their fingers, and report completely unfounded conspiracies as if they were facts.

Admit it Marcel, you screwed up.

Shame on LBC and MTV

I was planning to write something about this, but Habib Battah (an investigative journalist I admire) made a very good job exposing the stations’ lack of professionalism, shamelessness and irresponsibility in reporting cases like those of Myriam Ashckar and Burj Hammoud’s immigrants:

Rather than creating powerful content that educates and informs audiences, such organizations cynically mirror and amplify the latent fear and loathing that lives in minds of many Lebanese. Local TV stations substitute research and good old-fashioned reporting for unbalanced, shoddily constructed pieces masked in special effects and springing from visceral, misinformed xenophobic stereotypes.

He provides very good examples in his post on how LBC could have better handled the reporting of the crime.

When a country like Lebanon gets out of a civil war, broadcast media have an important duty to fight the ignorance and misconceptions that lead to such a war. They should not fan the flames in cheap sensationalist bits to get eyeballs.

So Why did They Kill it?

I was thinking about why Now Lebanon would censor its unhate blog post, and I came up with not just one, but many possible (good?) reasons:

  • The men kissing men thing. Big taboo in Arab societies.
  • The religious dimension: Sayyed Nasrallah is widely respected among Shiaas
  • The money trail: Mr. Hariri pretty much owns Now Lebanon
  • The hooligans: Fans of the politicians portrayed can burst into Now Lebanon’s offices and start burning things
  • All of the above

It would be interesting to know which reason was the most influential in the decision to censor. In other words, if only the poster with Aoun and Geagea was posted, will it still have been removed?

Perhaps someone from Now Lebanon can shed some light. I promise to keep you anonymous.

Now Lebanon Kills Blog Post Showing Lebanese Leaders Kissing

This morning while browsing Now Lebanon’s blog I saw a post (now removed, but you can see a screenshot I took here) featuring a Lebanese version of the now-infamous Benetton unhate campaign, with a couple of posters that pair together Lebanese politicians in a similar kind of steamy embrace.

I said to myself: There’s no way this is going to stay here. I was sure Now Lebanon was going to kill it (after all, they’ve done it before). So I wrote a comment on that post saying “let’s see how long those will last”.

My comment never showed up (but you can find it in the cache). The post was removed less than an hour later. At the time of the page’s removal, the post was seen around 6500 times. What was seen cannot be unseen.

Update: I wrote a follow-up post speculating on why it was censored.

Why a "Code of Ethics" For Journalists & Bloggers Is Not a Good Idea

Karl, responding to a suggestion by the Media Council for a code of ethics:

The suggestion that online news sites should write a ‘code of ethics’ should [...] be dismissed outright. This attempt at formalising self-censorship is even more dangerous than outright state censorship. We have to trust editors and writers to make independent decisions and allow them the freedom to challenge social norms and restrictions.If they transgress any limits, let public opinion be the judge not the government’s officially-designated media dinosaurs.


❊ Lebanese Online Activism and Shoddy Journalism

Andy Carvin, the celebrated twitter curation machine and an authority on online reporting and news activism is currently in Beirut. When the Daily Star‘s Michelle Mathis interviewed him, this is what she wrote in her article:

Lebanon still lags behind in terms of digital activism, despite the fact that elsewhere in the region social media has gone from a convenient way to socialize to a powerful tool for organizing, promulgating and disseminating information, social media expert Andy Carvin said Monday.

This is a damning assessment from someone like Carvin. How could this be? After some digging, I found out that this was simply a matter of misrepresentation by what appears to be a clueless Daily Star reporter.

[blackbirdpie url="!/acarvin/status/131214689077174272"]

Carvin explained (again and again) that his position was that he wasn’t an expert on Lebanese online activism, and as such he told the reporter that he doesn’t know enough to comment.

That, apparently, wasn’t exciting enough for Ms. Mathis, so she decided to spice things up for her humdrum daily.

For the record, Lebanon’s online activism is not only vibrant, it’s also effective. It has raised awareness on issues ranging from foreign domestic labor to women rights and LGBT rights, from tobacco control to the speed of the internet.

In many of these issues, online activism played a big role in pushing the government into taking action. And they did all of that using the world’s worst internet connection. They actually deserve a medal.

"Protecting" Lebanese Websites

Abdel-Hadi Mahfouz, head of the National Audio-visual Media Council, on why they want to build a database of Lebanese websites:

Our recent decision to organize the online media will only protect websites from a future government ruling against them … if they are not registered or within our database, the government could easily ban them,

It’s like asking us to walk into a prison so that they could protect us from murder.

R.I.P Antonio Cassese

He was a good man.

I leave you with this enlightened piece of reporting by Al-Akhbar after Cassese’s resignation, as dug up by Qifa Nabki:

Nashabe (who is the paper’s judicial affairs editor) claimed that the previous day’s resignation of Antonio Cassese from the presidency of the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) was “likely prompted by a power struggle between prosecutor Daniel Bellemare and STL judges,” and not by health issues, as Cassese had originally said.

Maybe Cassese committed suicide to prove that he resigned because he was sick.. The Al-Akhbar plot thickens..