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The Journey of Sarkis Naoum in "the Day": The Secrets of a Profession

Updated on March 1, 2020

Sarkis Naoum's new book, "From Mizyara to Washington: When Memory Wakes Up", is one of the most important publications issued by the Lebanese press for years. The importance of the book comes from the author's sincerity in his account of his journalistic career (and political, somewhat, as Kamal Shatila and after him Abdel-Halim Khaddam almost brought him into the world of politics) even when his honesty violates his reputation and professionalism. However, it is not clear that Noam realized that this frankness in his novel came in complete contradiction with his vision and assessment of himself and his profession. He is a journalist who insists in this book on his "independence", but that independence (he says that he took the independence of opinion from his parents, p. 25) was broken early under the impact of material temptations that we talked about, with very frank detail and detail. Much has been written about the newspaper, "An-Nahar", and most of what has been written about it is in the field of advertising and commercial promotion, such as Ghassan Tueni's book, "The Secret of the Profession and Other Secrets".

Sarkis Naoum's book is useful, interesting, and smoothly narrated: This is the biography of a man from a poor background from Mizyara who persevered and worked hard to arrive at writing a political analysis in a newspaper that was for the first (before the war) years in Lebanon, and with influence that extended to the Arab world. But the biography of "Al-Nahar" about itself (whether in the biography of Tueni or in the biography of Saab) is not what comes to our attention between the two books of Noam's book, which revealed a face that is only familiar to those who knew Ghassan Tueni, or who knew who knew Tueni directly. Noam has exposed the way Ghassan Tueni works and his personality, without being impressed or affected by the aura that Tueni wanted to establish inside and outside the newspaper. Noam's painful biography (to him) is because he reviewed his life's march, and he appeared - as it appears from the book - disgruntled and indignant at many.

In his depiction of the region of Zgharta where he grew up, there is a bold portrayal by Noam of the class inequality in the region and the domination of feudal families. He says in his speech: “We are the people of Mizyara Zalm Al-Bakwat” (p. 29). This class injustice that he experienced and touched (which is absent from his articles and his political orientations) printed his personality, as he soon noticed class superiority in his life and in his career, and touched him for example from Ghassan Tueni (who seems, and this is an unknown part of his personality, that he always took Sarkis should not have a Western elitist education, and the people at Tueni are not the same as the teeth of the comb) and from Samir Franjieh, who was a member of the Trio, was receiving regular payments from Rafik Hariri. According to Noam's account, Franjieh saw himself as a pecker, and saw Noam as a pothole (from the perspective of the class background). Noam does not hesitate to tell the details of the massacre of Mizyara, which is not permissible to talk about until this time (and the person responsible for it became president of the Republic of Lebanon). Whoever reads Noam's articles on “An-Nahar” will discover that his narrative literary style is much more beautiful than his style as a political analyst, where references and citations abound with this “serious source” or that. She lives with his childhood and promises to his father that he will achieve something when he grows up. Contrary to the tradition of the Lebanese biography, the biography of Naoum brags and exaggerates, except for a lot of informing the reader about the admiration of senior officials (Arabs and Americans, such as Jeffrey Feltman, who can barely read his name in Arabic) with his writings. He does not exaggerate, for example, talking about his academic performance, and tells us when he falls in this official or that examination (for example, he says frankly, "I did not pass the baccalaureate in the first part of the first session", p. 32, and this is rare to admit in walking). He says elsewhere about his relationship with his son: “I even slapped him a few times, and I was upset with myself for doing this” (p. 61). But the frankness of the soul stands at the limits of politics.

Noam mingled with people of other sects after his descent to Beirut, and this seems to have affected him and affected his view of the Lebanese situation. But his announcement of his secularism is tinged with attaching sectarian qualities to his friends: his friend Muhammad Abbas Al-Muslim (p. 44) “Afif Abu Khair Al-Druze, Saeed Hazmeh Al-Sunni, in addition to Mustafa Malbas from Palestine” (48), then his Sunni wife. If only, Sarkis: We are talking about friends and a wife here, and not about members of the proposed Senate, in which people are divided according to sects. Sarkis is a serious man who loves seriousness in life. Does this mean that he is not a joke? For example, he studied at the Lebanese University but “with a great deal of seriousness” (p. 46), even about the relationship with a girl at the university saying: “The story is serious and not serious”, but he adds after “we have resumed the relationship in a serious way” (p. 57). And Naoum's articles abound in describing the sources seriously. Imagine that he decided early in life to deviate from humor and fun towards seriousness, and he appeared in his television appearance very seriously.

The biography of "An-Nahar" in this book, unlike the book of Edmond Saab, is the unofficial biography that is authorized for the newspaper and shows its corruption and the predecessor of Ghassan Tueni.

Noam reveals what we did not know about him: Who knew that he passed through the "Phalanges" party in his youth, before he became an Arab in the university years, in support of Kamal Shatila in organizing the "Union of the Powers of the Working People". Shatila was an active student leader in the 1960s, and he had a strong presence in Beirut, and his popularity and organizational ability contributed to a wise success in the 1972 elections. However, Noam seems apologetic in narrating his activity during this period, as if he does not want to sour about him and they are his independence, so he says: “I found myself, for once, I collect donations for a Palestinian guerrilla” (p. 53). How did you find yourself, Serkis? So by chance and without your awareness? Shatila gave Noam a gun, and asked him one day: “Sarkis, what are you?” Sarkis answers: "I am a Maronite." And Shatila answers him: “Make Orthodox and your home on the elections (P. 54)”.

But the most important topic in Naoum's narration is in the physical condition. He says that his salary in "Al-Nahar" newspaper did not exceed $ 860 for years, and this is logical (although some may question the number). However, it is hidden from the corruption of the “An-Nahar” newspaper and the style of Ghassan Tueni, that it was due to the salaries of most of its employees (with the exception of a few lucky ones) on the basis that they had to “manage their condition” outside the newspaper, because the name “An-Nahar” could be done (in the days of glory) ) To bring in more political money. Correspondents received monthly “gratuity” salaries from every president appointed to cover him (some “An-Nahar” correspondents abstained from that rule). However, Sarkis avoided the problem by carrying out "consultations" (p. 62). However, the problem is that Sarkis, according to his narration, does not find anything wrong with receiving regular monthly salaries from politicians he writes about (whom we knew about in this biography are Rafik Hariri and Fouad Makhzoumi). Nevertheless, Noam reconciles in his mind what he is proud to call his "independence" and to receive salaries from politicians. If you, Sarkis, had written in Hariri's criticism, would the salary have been continued? But a rift broke out in his relationship with Al-Hariri, then with Makhzoumi, then things returned, they became conventional and financial support was organized for him. Noam's admission may not be surprising in the Lebanese media, but it opens the door to a review of the widespread media corruption file. How can the media be held accountable and expose political corruption while media corruption is an integral part of political corruption? Could Rafik Hariri could have established a state of corruption and financial insult if the media, like Noam and many others, did not promote him and cover up his corruption and disastrous policies? Noam's admission may not be surprising in the Lebanese media, but it opens the door to a review of the widespread media corruption file. How can the media be held accountable and expose political corruption while media corruption is an integral part of political corruption? Could Rafik Hariri could have established a state of corruption and financial insult if the media, like Noam and many others, did not promote him and cover up his corruption and disastrous policies? Noam's admission may not be surprising in the Lebanese media, but it opens the door to a review of the widespread media corruption file. How can the media be held accountable and expose political corruption while media corruption is an integral part of political corruption? Could Rafik Hariri could have established a state of corruption and financial insult if the media, like Noam and many others, did not promote him and cover up his corruption and disastrous policies?

Seeking mediation for his children is part of the biography of Noam, there are those who serve him, and there are those who serve him once, and there are those who did not serve him at all, and he carries bitterness in himself from those who let him down. He says about Fouad Makhzoumi when he wanted a job for his son: “I then contacted the businessman and the deputy Fouad Makhzoumi, and our relationship was renewed” (p. 64). As for Riyad Salama, he served him once, and he tells him that he has a reputation that he “serves once, and does not serve twice” (p. 66). His daughter Salama hired him, but he did not help him "in mediation to appoint Tariq (his son) to the World Bank" (p. 66). He attributes the reason that Salameh refrained from providing the second service because he did not join the "wide team of media people who supported and still attained the presidency of the Republic." He added, noting that I did so in order to preserve my independence and objectivity, "the situation this day". But Sarkis: He asked the two mediators, and then he received two employees from Rafic Hariri and Fouad Makhzoumi, that it does not contradict your declaration of your independence and objectivity of "the position this day"? Noam does not seem to see the contradiction in this, and here is the great disaster. No, Naoum is not satisfied with that. Rather, he admonishes the ambassadors who prepare him with advisory work and do not respond.

Naoum tells his story with Ghassan Tueni and I believe him. He attributes the reason for Tueni taking an early position against him, because he stated Ghassan Tueni in his opinion that his son Gibran, contrary to Ghassan's experience with his father Gibran, did not start from the first ladder and gradually, as Gibran Tueni wanted the grandfather of his son (p. 110). Also, Tueni disliked Naoum's class or educational background. He once told him in front of Al-Hariri: «Heidi's newspaper is my house and you see me, oh, what are you doing? (P. 110). Noam adds that Tueni was jealous of him: “He was not comfortable with the increasing number of my readers, and the people's approval of my articles. They used to say that with the exception of the two days (when he was writing his editorial), people would open "the day" on the second page directly to read "the situation this day." He did not like my popularity ”(p. 111). He adds that Tueni was harshly criticizing him in an editorial meeting without naming him, criticizing those who rely on "an informed source" and "a responsible source" in their articles (p. 111). But this one has a right in it, Ghassan, Sarkis. How many, or even excessive, attributes of news and opinions to various sources with different descriptions, such as "a very serious source" or "a chronic American follower of Middle East America" ​​or "the atmosphere of Hezbollah" or "a serious follower of political life in the United States" or " "In his emails to Sarkis," the serious American follower said. This is a literal sample of his articles and television appearances. This is not reliable journalism, Sarkis. Tueni used to describe him as “the Syrian agent” (p. 115): People forget that Sarkis, who important to Lebanon’s sovereignty and wooed the intervention of the Syrian regime in Lebanon, after the departure of the Syrian forces from Lebanon in 2005, was very close to Abdel Halim Khaddam and leaders in the system. The Syrian, to the extent that Khaddam’s servants can be considered the first inspiration to sleep in “the situation this day” How many, or even excessive, attributes of news and opinions to various sources with different descriptions, such as "a very serious source" or "a chronic American follower of Middle East America" ​​or "the atmosphere of Hezbollah" or "a serious follower of political life in the United States" or " "In his emails to Sarkis," the serious American follower said. This is a literal sample of his articles and television appearances. This is not reliable journalism, Sarkis. Tueni used to describe him as “the Syrian agent” (p. 115): People forget that Sarkis, who important to Lebanon’s sovereignty and wooed the intervention of the Syrian regime in Lebanon, after the departure of the Syrian forces from Lebanon in 2005, was very close to Abdel Halim Khaddam and leaders in the system. The Syrian, to the extent that Khaddam’s servants can be considered the first inspiration to sleep in “the situation this day” How many, or even excessive, attributes of news and opinions to various sources with different descriptions, such as "a very serious source" or "a chronic American follower of Middle East America" ​​or "the atmosphere of Hezbollah" or "a serious follower of political life in the United States" or " "In his emails to Sarkis," the serious American follower said. This is a literal sample of his articles and television appearances. This is not reliable journalism, Sarkis. Tueni used to describe him as “the Syrian agent” (p. 115): People forget that Sarkis, who important to Lebanon’s sovereignty and wooed the intervention of the Syrian regime in Lebanon, after the departure of the Syrian forces from Lebanon in 2005, was very close to Abdel Halim Khaddam and leaders in the system. The Syrian, to the extent that Khaddam’s servants can be considered the first inspiration to sleep in “the situation this day” This is a literal sample of his articles and television appearances. This is not reliable journalism, Sarkis. Tueni used to describe him as “the Syrian agent” (p. 115): People forget that Sarkis, who important to Lebanon’s sovereignty and wooed the intervention of the Syrian regime in Lebanon, after the departure of the Syrian forces from Lebanon in 2005, was very close to Abdel Halim Khaddam and leaders in the system. The Syrian, to the extent that Khaddam's servants can be considered the first inspiration to sleep in "the situation this day." This is a literal sample of his articles and television appearances. This is not reliable journalism, Sarkis. Tueni used to describe him as "the Syrian agent" (p. 115): People forget that Sarkis, who was important to Lebanon's sovereignty and wooed the intervention of the Syrian regime in Lebanon, after the departure of the Syrian forces from Lebanon in 2005, was very close to Abdel Halim Khaddam and leaders in the system The Syrian, to the extent that Khaddam's servants can be considered the first inspiration to sleep in "the situation this day".

It is chased by class resentment, but it does not translate into a curse against the ruling class, but against the wealthy who ignore it, only those who ignore it. On the one hand, he says that he is "the son of a family whose founder was Maamerji", and he regrets his neglect of "art, culture and philosophy", but he says, "I made a name for me in Lebanon, the Arab world and some of the world ... and the importance of my writing appears to people, countries, and embassies. The contacts that I receive daily, and the consultations that ask of me, are evidence of the value of the articles I write ”(p. 121). But, from these countries, Sarkis? What if she calls you to influence you or use your corner to pump her political propaganda? Inevitably, Awni al-Kaaki receives calls from embassies and countries, but that is not because of the value of his articles.

For the first time, I find a writer in "Al-Nahar" that talks about the nature of management in it and financing without turning and turning, and he is frank even in his description of Naela Tueni's personality, who appears not to answer telephone calls from Sarkis or from ambassadors. He says he tried to raise Qatari funding for the newspaper, but Nayla, due to her conservative and isolated character, did not help. Gibran Tueni, as Ghassan before him, was annoyed by Sarkis’s Gulf relations, so that Gibran prevented him from meeting a visit to Kuwait because he was the one who decided to send (p. 127), and the relationship with Kuwait was essential in financing “An-Nahar,” as Clovis told me, Who heard Ghassan Tueni please during a visit from Gibran Kuwait, in order not to deduct a large sum from the Kuwaiti grant this time). And how does the Tueni family not be upset with Sarkis, when Saudi Ambassador Ali Al-Asiri visits the offices of "Al-Nahar" and says in front of the audience: "Our ambassador to you is Professor Sarkis Naoum" (p. 128). Will the journalist whom the Saudi ambassador considers the regime’s ambassador to be independent and objective? Is this the independence that Noam is keen on?

But Naela Tueni increased Sarkis' salary to $ 5,000 (p. 127), after Gibran had increased it to $ 3,000. However, Sarkis' chronic financial problem dates back to his annual visit to Washington. Sarkis has had an annual tradition that he maintains, visiting Washington and conducting a very (very) long series of interviews with current and former officials, experts, and intruders on the experience, then using it in a very long (very) series of interviews in which sources of the "very serious source" are received Or “Serious Follower” (no joke, with our brother Sarkis). And that visit costs Sarkis 25 thousand dollars (I do not know why the amount reaches 25 thousand dollars, as I have lived in Washington for years, and I calculated the cost of travel and hotel accommodation and did not reach me with 25 thousand dollars, unless Sarkis favored travel and luxury accommodation). The recruitment of Rafik Hariri to Noam does not differ from that of other journalists, as I heard about Hariri's attempt to recruit (that is, funding) Joseph Samaha and Rafik Khoury (separately, and without success). Al-Hariri asked Sarkis, Samir Franjieh, and officer Adnan Shaaban, to help him in "doing something" for 20 thousand dollars a month for the three (but Al-Hariri returned and deducted it after Sarkis was converting half of it into a Swiss account). (P. 167). Once, when Hariri learned that Sarkis had a small amount in the Banque du Liban, he ordered the disbursement of 300,000 pounds to him (p. 168) (this was prior to the resounding fall of the pound). Once again, Hariri transferred him to 200,000 pounds, and Sarkis converted it to dollars, so our friend benefited a lot. However, Sarkis does not find a reason to accept the silk money because he is independent, and this is not a bribe: “Because I was convinced of his project” (p. 168). We ask Sarkis: Does this mean that bribery for a journalist is permissible, only in cases where the journalist is convinced of the bribery project? But the estrangement took place between Hariri and Sarkis (he did not disclose its reasons), and then the relationship returned to its tracks (and his financial situation was not "fine" (p. 173) and Sarkis agreed to be a consultant to Al-Hariri (again) with a salary of $ 5,000 per month (instead of On “Consultations, Analysis, and Studies,” p. 173) in addition to securing the expenses of one or two trips to the United States annually, i.e. 15,000 dollars for the trip. Hariri died after suggesting to Sarkis to write a book about him (p. 174). Al-Hariri died after suggesting that Sarkis write a book about him. (P. 174). Al-Hariri died after suggesting that Sarkis write a book about him. (P. 174).

As for Fouad Makhzoumi, he contracted Sarkis in an advisory relationship for $ 2,500 a month, but the relationship between them went through, too, with a long break, and the communication returned after more than twelve years, then Makhzoumi increased the salary of Noam Al-Shehri to $ 5,000 (p. 209) . There are promotional advertisements for Al-Makhzoomi in which Noam appears in skating clothes, as Al-Makhzoumi is asked about his projects, and these may be within the contract or Xtra. I wonder? But it is unlikely that Sarkis would find in this relationship a contradiction with his independence. Why? Because, like the case of Hariri, he is convinced of his project. He cites Al-Makhzoumi's saying: “He is the only journalist who Masari did not work out of his profession” (p. 210). But the sum of the numbers mentioned in this review indicates a decent amount of money saved, Sarkis. However, the rich Michel Eddeh offered Sarkis (whom he used to visit “in a regular way”) a contract to work with him, but Sarkis surprised him by saying: “Contra means a sum of money, and I never miss a guide.” (P. 250). How do you miss it, Sarkis? Did you not tell us about Hariri and Makhzoumi? There was a project to work as an advisor to King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, but Sarkis reluctantly recounts that the project was not achieved (p. 292), even though he visited Janadriya. There are unclear stories and details in the book about US intelligence efforts to recruit Sarkis, but the latter rejected it.

This is a book useful for knowing the work of Al-Nahar newspaper under successive administrations. And the biography of "An-Nahar" in this book, unlike the book of Edmond Saab, is the unofficial biography authorized for the newspaper, and its corruption appears and the predecessor of Ghassan Tueni: Even Edmund Saab admits that Ghassan Tueni was having difficulty praising the work of the "An-Nahar" journalists unless he had an idea The Article (p. 217). However, Sarkis Noam's biography is worth reading, and it was marred by a tinge of gloom that accompanied the writer from his childhood to the current years. You see him unable to explain his understanding of professionalism in journalism, and the relationship (financial and personal) with politicians: The Washington Post's veteran journalist, David Broder, has been rejecting the social relationship with politicians, fearing that this will affect his coverage. However, the frankness of Sarkis Naoum’s story could be an occasion to open to him, and everyone working in the media field in Lebanon needs to set controls for the profession whose crisis is shortened by Awni Al-Kaki’s position as its captain.

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