Berri tackles print media crisis with Riachy

Speaker of the House, Nabih Berri, received this Tuesday in Ain al-Tineh caretaker Minister of Information, Melhem Riachy, with talks touching on the current situation and the pending government formation. Talks also focused on the situation of print media situation and the problems this sector faces.

"I was honored to meet with Speaker Berri. We discussed the situation of the media sector in general, especially the print media which is currently in crisis. There is a set of laws that I submitted to the cabinet, but they unfortunately remained in the drawers of the general assembly. We are trying, in coordination with the concerned parties, (...) to turn these suggestions into draft laws to be submitted under the headline of urgent legislation to the House of Representatives, so as to help solve the economic crises of the media, mainly the written media, knowing that all the media institutions live great suffering," Riachy said.

"There is a proposed law that will not cost the State one penny, but will provide tax and customs exemptions for the media," he added, stressing that this suggestion will be discussed with the Lebanese forces which will play a major role in its adoption.

"Another issue is the media sector's problems with social security. We are discussing with newspapers' boards of directors means to solve this issue. This matter certainly does not need the House of Representatives, but I have run it by Speaker Berri, especially in light of the proposals submitted by colleagues Ibrahim Al-Amin and Nayla Tueini. I have merged the two suggestions together, briefed the Speaker on them, and plan on presenting them to the Minister of Finance to give us his opinion on whether or not they are viable," Riachy said.

Asked about Speaker Berri's position as to the LF's stance amidst the thorny government formation process, Riachy responded: "Frankly, we did not talk about this subject in details, because it has been discussed before. The position of [Speaker Berri] is clear. He has assured me, once again, that in this country no one is imposing a veto on anyone. Let this be clear. We neither veto anyone, nor accept to be vetoed by anyone."

On a different note, Speaker Berri received caretaker Defense Minister, Yaacoub Sarraf, and presented him with an array of issues related to the ministry and the army's support.

In the afternoon, Berri welcomed a delegation of the "Democratic Gathering" bloc which included MPs Marwan Hamadeh, Akram Shehayeb, Nehme Tohme, Henry El-Helou, Wael Abou Faour, Bilal Abdullah, Hadi Abou El-Hassan, Faisal Al-Sayegh and General Secretary of the Progressive Socialist Party Zafer Nasser.

Minister Hamadeh, who spoke on behalf of the delegation, hoped that a government of national unity would be formed soon.

"We have informed the Speaker that we as Democratic Gathering and Progressive Socialist Party intend to propose an accelerated law to extend free education in public education to secondary levels. As you know, compulsory and free education is available until the Brevet certificate. But in light of the economic and social conditions, and the Ministry of Social Affairs' inability to cover the fees imposed on secondary education students, especially the least fortunate of them, we end up asking for support from international donors, every time. With minimal budget, we are able to provide a minimum of free education in public schools throughout all levels," Hamadeh said.

Asked about the so-called Druze knot, and today's statement by Minister Arslan who suggested giving the President five Druze names to choose from in cooperation with Speaker Berri, Hamadeh replied "regardless of what Minister Arslan said, we do not believe there is a Druze knot. Even if we adopt the criteria of Minister Gebran Bassil, it will turn out to be no Druze knot. The seats are for the Democratic Gathering and the Progressive Socialist Party."

"The knot is from those who are trying to rob the government decision for four years to come, and I believe that all the forces in Lebanon, Speaker Berri included, reject this," he concluded.

Source: National News Agency