How Journalism Could Be Lebanon’s Saving Grace

Habib Battah is Lebanese investigative journalist and editor for the news website beirutreport.com. He has been a journalist for 20 years, contributing to publications such as The Guardian, BBC News, Al Jazeera English, Vice on HBO, CNN, Variety, Aramco World, and The Daily Star Lebanon. He is also a two-time recipient of the Samir Kassir Press Freedom Award. He splits his time between Lebanon and the U.S.

Habib Battah is pictured here.

Habib founded beirutreport.com in 2008, which he refers to as “the reporter’s notebook,” after working in traditional media in the Middle East and the U.S. Habib wanted to “bridge those divides in communication” by creating his own space for journalism.

The first story Habib posted on the site showcased his own photographs of an assassination scene after he noticed evidence that was untouched by authorities beyond police lines. The site has since evolved to cover a multitude of issues unique to Lebanon, including problems with infrastructure in the country, where Habib says, “transparency and environmental issues are ignored.” He also focuses on the country’s heritage because he says”the real estate industry has been eating up a lot of the old history of Beirut.”

Ultimately, Habib says he writes about his reality, which he assures me, can be quite foreign to readers in wealthy Western countries like the U.S.

Following the Beirut explosion which has left over 160 people dead and over 300,000 homeless, Habib has been expectedly very busy. Lebanon has seen a rise in mass protests since the blast and Habib has made sure to cover the activism. “There’s always more to the story,” he says, which is why he aims to cover counter-opinion in a way that gives protestors “a shot of hope,” rather than being left subject to corruption with an inability to change it.

Journalism, he says, plays a big role in giving people hope but has its limits in a country ravaged by corruption. “Many [news agencies] have 10 to 20 reporters or less,” Habib says. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Although the media in Lebanon has taken years to evolve, Habib says he sees that governmental issues are finally starting to be investigated openly in the media.

He champions investigative journalism for its role in this trend. “Not just journalists but activists as well, are uncovering all kinds of mismanagement and disfunction,” he says. Admittedly, it is a subversive period in the country where journalists are regularly questioning authority. And it is just this subversiveness that could ultimately change the course of corruption in the country.

“I think American media can learn a few things from Lebanese media, believe it or not,” he says.

Read more about Habib’s work at www.beirutreport.com.

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