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Lebanon: Hariri suspends Future TV

Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri in Beirut, Lebanon on 14 February 2019 [LEBANESE PRIME MINISTRY OFFICE / HANDOUT/Anadolu Agency]
Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri in Beirut, Lebanon on 14 February 2019 [LEBANESE PRIME MINISTRY OFFICE / HANDOUT/Anadolu Agency]

Lebanese Prime Minister and head of the Future Movement announced on Wednesday the suspension of work of Future TV.

"It is with great regret I announce today a decision to suspend the work of Future TV and payment of dues to the channel's employees. This is due to the same financial reasons that led to the closure of the newspaper Al-Mustaqbal," said Hariri in a statement, of which Anadolu Agency obtained a copy.

He added: "The decision is not easy for me, the Future Movement, nor for the generation of the founders, employees and millions of Lebanese and Arab viewers, who have accompanied the TV channel for more than a quarter of a century. They have witnessed a distinguished media experience that devoted effort, potential and competencies to serve Lebanon and Arab issues."

Hariri explained that it is essential that "the people of Future TV, all the Lebanese public, and the Arab brothers know that the channel will not be shut down and the decision is not to suspend its work permanently and turn it into a part of the past. The channel is rather announcing the end of a period of its journey to be able to address the accumulated financial burdens."

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According to the statement, "the channel is preparing for a new phase in which it looks forward to resuming its work in the upcoming months, in a way that shines on Lebanon and the Arabs with a media and news version that matches the available capabilities and emulates the Lebanese people in their national, economic, social, and development interests."

Future TV employees have been on strike since early August over unpaid wages, a crisis that has continued for years but has aggravated in recent months.

For the first time since its founding in 1993 by the late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, news and programs on Future TV have been suspended.

The current crisis of Future TV, which also affects Radio Orient, started in 2014 with irregular payments of salaries until it gradually worsened and the salaries of employees were cut for nearly a year.

In 2017, the situation improved as employees received their monthly salaries, but the crisis soon resurfaced in mid-2018, when the salary split started. For the last three months, about 430 of the channel's employees have only received half of their salaries.

The Lebanese media outlets are suffering a financial crisis mainly due to the suspension of external funding, as well as the decline in the advertisement market, according to observers.

In 2016, the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir permanently suspended its work after a 42-year- experience.

Likewise, other media institutions have resorted to austerity measures and imposed a direct financial allowance for their news services, such as Annahar and LBC.

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