Al-Yassariya TV Channel: Uniting or Dividing the Left?
By: Nader Fawz
Published Monday, January 16, 2012
A new self-identified leftist channel, set to be launched from Beirut by the Lebanese and Syrian Communist Parties, is already stirring controversy among Lebanese Communists.
Arab leftist political parties and their supporters have worked for many years on launching a television channel named Al-Yassariya (The Leftist).
The decision to press ahead with establishing the new station was made at the Second Arab Left Forum last year in Beirut. But no launch date has been announced yet. The founders of Al-Yassariya intend for it to be a voice for the Arab left and an alternative to established Arabic media sources.
One year after the decision to launch the channel was made, the Third Arab Left Forum was held on January 12 at the Holiday Inn in Beirut. Issues such as change and reform, the economy, society, religion, the state, and the Palestinian cause took precedence at the gathering. As a result, all discussions concerning Al-Yassariya on the forum’s agenda were delayed until the last day of the conference and limited to only two hours.
As this incident indicates, the process behind establishing the new station has not been free of controversy. As a result, Lebanese Communists have an array of views and opinions concerning the future launching of Al-Yassariya.
The General-Secretary of the Lebanese Communist Party (LCP) Khaled Hadadi says that the party’s politburo supports the project and that the LCP has submitted its own proposals on how to improve plans for the station.
Hadadi’s optimistic view regarding Al-Yassariya, however, conflicts with a negative and “destructive” reality pointed out by officials in the party.
These officials say that three months ago, Hadadi told them, while at an internal organizational workshop, that Al-Yassariya had been launched.
Communists left that meeting feeling hopeful that “a victory against injustice and imperialism had been achieved,” as some described it.
They supported the project thinking that “the revival of the left will happen through it, especially as it will connect Arab leftists, which in turn will help close ranks and spread the word.”
As time passed, however, optimism receded. What members of the party had thought was two steps forward and one step back turned out, instead, to be several steps back. These Communists are today critical of the way their leadership, and specifically comrade Hadadi, has handled the issue.
According to members of the central committee, Hadadi headed a politburo meeting in the past and introduced himself as, not only the party’s general-secretary, but also chairperson of Al-Yassariya’s board.
Many Communists do not approve of Hadadi assuming this new position since the decision was made without the approval of the central committee, the highest body in the party.
Hadadi, however, affirms that the committee did discuss the issue, saying, “Whoever is objecting and saying the contrary perhaps missed the meetings of the central committee.”
Critics, on the other hand, insist that the only issue discussed at the central committee meeting was the mechanism of recruitment at the channel.
It seems that Hadadi and the party leadership are pressing ahead with the project without paying much attention to their critics.
Office space for the channel has been leased in Mar Mikhail and Gallery Samaan (Chiah) in Beirut. The station’s management has also begun contacting comrades and friends familiar with media matters in an attempt to benefit from their expertise.
The ownership of Al-Yassariya is primarily divided three ways: the LCP under Hadadi’s name owns 34 percent, the Syrian Communist Party – Qassioun Branch under the name of Qadri Jamil owns 34 percent, and Mikhail Awad owns 32 percent.
The capital raised for this project so far is estimated at US$900,000. Jamil contributed US$700,000 while the remaining US$200,000 came from Awad. This means that the LCP has the biggest share in the station without making any financial contribution.
Lebanese Communists have raised questions about the political positions of their two partners particularly because the Syrian Communist Party and Awad are well-known for their support of the Syrian regime.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.