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How AnNahar Championed Press Freedom


The team at Impact BBDO on reviving six extinct Lebanese newspapers to honour Gebran Tueni on the anniversary of his assassination, writes LBB’s Nisna Mahtani

How AnNahar Championed Press Freedom

The AnNahar newspaper has continued to be vocal about sharing the crises in Lebanon with the rest of the world. Having impacted the nation since 2019, and exacerbated by the 2020 covid-19 pandemic, locals have suffered from a financial crash affecting people's livelihoods. Partnering with Impact BBDO once again, this time, the paper has used its pages to give a voice back to journalists who’ve seen their papers vanish.

In time to honour the newspaper's former editor in chief, Gebran Tueni, who was assassinated on December 12th 2005, an illustrated image of his face adorns the front of the special edition paper. Not only this, but journalists from extinct newspapers – namely AsSafir, AlAnwar, AlMoustaqbal, AlHayat, AlBayraq and The Daily Star – were called upon to contribute to this issue,which celebrates press freedom. Committed to not only saying they support press freedom, but showing it, people who were silenced were given a chance to share their voices. 

The team from Impact BBDO, including chairman and CEO Dani Richa, chief creative officer Ali Rez, managing director Emile Tabanji, and regional ECD Joe Abou-Khaled, tell LBB’s Nisna Mahtani about creating the paper and campaign video to go with it. 

LBB> Why was it so important to create this edition of AnNahar’s newspaper?

Ali> AnNahar’s mission is to protect and deliver the truth to the Lebanese people, which is only possible when the freedom to speak exists - without fear of persecution. The newspaper’s editor in chief, Gebran Tueni, always fought for this freedom, to his dying breath. It was important to honour him, it was important to remind everybody that freedom of press is the lifeblood of democracy, and it was important to defend the right to speak. Most of all, it was important to do it in a way that proved the truth will never be silenced. 

LBB> The release coincides with Gebran’s death anniversary, which occurred 17 years prior. Can you talk us through this impactful timing decision?

Joe> To date, the executors of Gebran’s assassination remain unidentified. This is the norm for most political crimes in Lebanon, where justice is hidden by the consistent failures of the government and ruling authorities. Every year, in remembrance of his courage, stance, and ultimate sacrifice, AnNahar revives his memory in an attempt to mourn his soul, and to shed light on the ongoing violent treatment of journalists and the total lack of respect for press freedom in Lebanon, and this part of the world. The timing decision of this year’s release was motivated by the scrambling of the media sector for survival, amid the blatant dysfunction of the state. It was clear to us that we needed to launch a campaign on this day to revive both his memory, as well as the memory of the many independent Lebanese dailies that are no longer with us.

LBB> How did you create the illustration of Gebran that we see on the front page? Please tell us about the process of using AnNahar’s signature colours and how the artist designed the image.

Joe> The image of Gebran and his fellow journalists holding up their pens during a peaceful demonstration to protest Samir Kassir’s murder - who was a prominent and influential journalist at AnNahar - is etched in the collective memory of the Lebanese. The photos of Gebran that surfaced from the protest have become an emblem, representing the fight for press freedom in the country. The image was illustrated based on the few photographs that we could collect of him, making sure to emphasise his distinct and recognisable features, as well as his iconic fountain pen. 

LBB> Can you talk us through the values of the AnNahar newspaper, why press freedom is so important, and how this campaign conveys the message?

Dani> It’s not just the Middle East – press around the world is governed by hidden agendas. In Lebanon, political pressure, economic failure and sanctions have driven a number of independent publications to close down. Without a variety of independent voices, the people of Lebanon have been left with news that only caters to individual party agendas. Our campaign fought this by reviving a few publications that had shut down due to their stands. 

LBB> How did you decide on the specific six publications that were shut down and how did you revive their voices?

Joe> Lebanon has always been the regional centre of media production in the Middle East. AsSafir, AlAnwar, AlMoustaqbal, AlHayat, AlBayraq and The Daily Star were among the most prestigious and authentic publications that left a mark on the Lebanese and Arab journalistic field for decades. All six went out of print simultaneously in the past few years. The Daily Star, for instance, was the oldest, and now the last English newspaper in the country. AsSafir was one of the main competitors of AnNahar - regarded as a centre-left, pan-Arab news source - and it shut down after 42 years of publication. AlAnwar, part of the well-established Dar AsSayad publishing house, ceased operations alongside eight other publications also belonging to the house. And so, our motives to choose these six to take over the spreads of the ‘newspapers-inside-the-newspaper’ edition came quite naturally.

LBB> What were the journalists' reactions when you contacted them to write once again under the name of their previous publications?

Joe> We came to an agreement that the journalists should be reached out to by the AnNahar management team. Some were founders of previous publications, others were the editors in chief or other prominent journalists who contributed greatly to the legacy of these journals. We received grateful messages in recognition of what we were doing - some of which were quite emotional from those who felt strongly about this opportunity to contribute to the late Gebran Tueni’s legacy. We made sure to include all of these testimonies within the newspaper.  

LBB> Can you tell us about the content of the paper, what people wanted to write about and how you brought it all together?

Emile> A majority of the journalists wrote pieces reminiscing on their days of writing for their retrospective newspapers, recalling moments and their last days before their publication closed down. The content of the paper mostly united itself, by collectively discussing the state of press freedom - both back in the day and now - which, when combined, made for a diverse and rich edition. AnNahar extending itself to other brands ended up slowly assembling the symbolism of the martyrdom of Gebran, but also the martyrdom of the free press. 

LBB> This would have been an emotional campaign to work on. What was it like behind the scenes and what was everyone keen to include?

Emile> This was not the first campaign we launched with AnNahar, but it was important to us for many reasons. It hit an emotional chord for us, as it was centred around the disappearance of a very prominent figure - one that also happens to be the father of the current CEO of AnNahar, and its previous editor in chief. We were keen on extending these platforms to the writers due to their valuable yet unexploited potential in the Lebanese media field. 

LBB> What were some of the challenges of creating this paper?

Joe> Bringing extinct brands back to life is not an easy thing to do. There’s no one there to send you logos or guidelines. We had to recreate each and every logo and template from old references that we found on the internet, and we made sure to stay true to their respective identities and overall structures. The final artwork of the whole newspaper was built in the agency’s creative department. All this was done over one single weekend, as we needed to send the files to the printing house on Sunday night, so that the publication could hit the shelves on time on Monday morning. 

LBB> And can you share the most rewarding part of the campaign?

Ali>The reward is the same as with any campaign we do for AnNahar: the sheer exhilaration of putting together something that is not only incredibly brave, but the knowledge that the campaign will affect society positively. Knowing that the power of communication will move the needle in the discussion on freedom of press not only in Lebanon, but around the world, makes me proud.

LBB> What did you want the people of Lebanon, and around the world, to take away from this campaign?

Dani> Our message, as a collective of our agency, AnNahar, and all the included publications was that without the freedom of press, our other rights and freedoms vanish. Ultimately, this is the goal - shedding light on the reality of the Arab world, through independent journalism.


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Impact BBDO, Fri, 13 Jan 2023 17:24:00 GMT