As we noted yesterday, a NOW Lebanon editorial surprisingly critical of Saad al-Hariri (“The Baby and the Bathwater”) was taken down without a word of explanation by the editors.
NOW Lebanon has intentionally removed this article from the site. It was not removed because of censorship, but rather because of the lack of proper arguments. We would like to repeat, again, that NOW is not owned, in whole or in part, by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, nor any other political party or figure.
As Mustapha at Beirut Spring conjectures, this was not a move likely to be ordered by Hariri’s office itself but rather a bad decision by some higher-ups in the organization itself. I reached out to some contacts and was able to ascertain the following, from a well-placed source:
The reporters were shocked to learn that the piece had been taken down, as they had seen it as evidence of an increasingly independent line. Several senior writers and editors (such as Matt Nash and Hanin Ghaddar) put a lot of pressure on the publication’s higher-ups to restore the piece.
Eventually it came out that the order to remove the editorial came from the owner of NOW Lebanon, Eli Khoury. He felt that since it had been written as an editorial, it should have reflected the editorial line of the publication. He further stated that had the piece been written as an op-ed by a contributor like Michael Young, it would not have been removed or edited.
I don’t want to read too much into this incident, but I find it encouraging that the matter was rectified rapidly under pressure from the reporters themselves. A free press is one of Lebanon’s few saving graces; can we protect that, at the very least?