Bizarre is the ability of the extended-term president of the National Assembly, Abdel-Hadi Mahfouz, to deny his statements and transgression overnight. Soon after threatening and intimidating news websites he has no control over, he backtracked his position proving the recklessness of his attempt and fragility of his position.
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Last Thursday, in addition to the statement made by Mahfouz, multiple statements were made by multiple online news platforms from the South and others from the North. All of which appeared to be on demand positions in his defense to mislead public opinion into believing that he has garnered the support of a strong media base.
Perhaps the highlight of Mahfouz’s statement was the backtracking of his threats against Janoubia, citing his keenness on freedom of speech. In addition, he withdrew his intention to establish a syndicate for online news platforms as well as an “Online Judiciary Bureau” that would be spearheaded by a committee that he formed temporarily. That is how he would have ensured his control over the fate of those platforms.
Mahfouz Withdraws as Janoubi Responds
Informed sources told Janoubia that Mahfouz’s withdrawal came after strong backlash by the media and especially Janoubia. Many local and Arab platforms, civil society institutions, and media observers have shown support with Janoubia through statements of solidarity. In addition, many stakeholders, unions, and officials in the media field objected to the dangerous nature of Mahfouz’s efforts that include establishing new unions and unlawful regulations, not to mention his direct violation to the freedom of speech and freedom of press principles; all of which have been done in appeasement to the President and the Prime Minister.
It is likely that Abdel-Hadi realized he hit a wall after he bit off more than he could chew by targeting the fundamental freedoms of online platforms. He was forced into a tactical retreat as he issued justifications and gestures of good will towards the Ministry of Information and the Editors and Press Syndicates.
As for his claim that he did not interfere with the work of media platforms, a statement made by an alleged advisor for Mahfouz residing in Tyr, the day before his statement, stipulated that Mahfouz was acting on Behalf of Nabih Berri who wishes to form a Shiite controlled alternative union to that of the Maronite controlled Editor’s Union and the Sunni controlled Press Union.