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NNA launches ‘Hyde Park Corner’ on its website, Minister of Information touts restoration of Lebanon’s pioneering media role

The National News Agency launched on Monday evening "Hyde Park Corner" application on its website at a press conference co-hosted by the Ministry of Information and "Hyde Park Corner", under the patronage of Information Minister, Jamal Jarrah, at the Hilton Hotel in Downtown Beirut.

The ceremony was attended by Information Minister, Jamal Jarrah, MPs, diplomats, senior reporters and journalists, and a huge crowd of public figures and dignitaries.

After playing the Lebanese national anthem, event host, Mario Tannous, delivered a word introducing National News Agency Director, Laure Sleiman, to the audience.

In her delivered speech, Sleiman said, "We meet this evening to launch a new service on the website of the National News Agency, which has known remarkable progress over the past years.

Starting off with news in one language, we've managed to later provide our news services in four languages. From local news, we upgraded to regional and international news, to later provide our audience with photo and video services. We later resorted to social networking sites, in line with this era's media evolution, to reach the widest segment of people, especially the youth.

From Lebanon, we opened up to the world and appointed correspondents in Australia, France, Italy, Vatican, Canada, as well as Syria.

We conveyed news with honesty, sincerity, accuracy, and objectivity without distorting facts. We catered for all people, without discrimination.

It would have been possible to further upgrade our services had it not been for the lack of money; you're all aware that media services need funding to develop and progress.

Today, after the recent launch of the EYE POLICE service, we gather to announce the launch of "Hyde Park Corner" on the National News Agency's website.

We declare that we are responsible for what is posted on our page, yet we are not responsible for the stances that will be voiced through the "Hyde Park Corner" application.

I would like to thank His Excellency, Minister of Information, Jamal Jarrah, for the confidence he has given us, and I hope that we will be up to this responsibility. I also thank Bashir Al-Zaim, the owner of Hyde Park, for choosing the agency's website to provide this service."

Following Sleiman's word, the first episode of "Hyde Park Corner" was played to the audience through the National News Agency's website.

After the first episode of Hyde Park, British journalist, Brent Sadler, delivered a speech after being introduced as the Chairman of the Editorial Board of N1 News Channel, and an internationally renowned CNN broadcaster for 18 years, during which he served as CNN's Beirut Bureau Chief.

"That was quite an introduction! I sometimes wonder if it was really me who did all that, but yes it was. I'm back with my wife in Beirut, and everybody has been asking me what's going to happen next? People have been asking me that for almost four decades, and I think that the Lebanese sense of what's happening in their own country and the region pretty gives an indication of what might and what might not lie ahead. We don't really know, but we always live in hope.

I want to say first of all thank you very much for inviting me here. I want to salute the National News Agency for taking on on its website the "Hyde Park Corner" application.

I see Chris Rampling, the British Ambassador, here with us tonight with our other distinguished guests, and Chris had assured me that he's not here on behalf of the British government to claim copyrights for the Hyde Park Corner application!

As you've heard, I've been around a long time, and I remember the days when I used to take a cell phone - a heavy old Motorola - to Mount Harisa in the hope of catching a cellular signal across the sea in Cyrus. Sometimes it would work and some sometimes it wouldn't. I remember the days of telex machines at Commodore Hotel in Hamra. I can remember a lot of the difficulties we all had at that time as international journalists to be able to get our news stories out of this very difficult country to work during those years of the civil war and afterwards.

I'm not going to go too much into history. Many of you here know what I have done and why I'm here today, which is to support Hyde Park Corner. It was Hyde Park Corner in fact and my first ever visit to Fleet Street in the United Kingdom - the very center of the old British media industry, where I first got into journalism. I walked past Hyde Park Corner, I stood on a small table, and I said a few words at the age of 17. I was very nervous and very shy. I thought I would never have a chance to do any public speaking or have any impact at any level, let alone the level of CNN and international news.

As far as Hyde Park Corner is concerned, it is iconic in the field of freedom speech, debate, and discussion. To wrap this up, I'm here to thank Bashir Al-Zaim for inviting me, to salute the National News Agency, and to urge you all to download the application, get used to it, have your say, and start beaming."

Then the owner of "Hyde Park Corner", Mr. Bashir Al-Zaim, gave the following speech:

"The first time I ever saw Hyde Park was in 2004, by chance, after I'd heard of it from martyr journalist, Gebran Tueni. I saw free dialogue among all the components, ethnicities, and races, reaching the times of the Arab Spring back in 2011.

The successful idea of Hyde Park is not only exclusive to London, as it has proven to be very useful to encourage debate and dialogue between people. In 2003, Hyde Park in Britain contributed to protests by approximately 2 million people against the war in Iraq.

I conclude by saying that I have full honor to share the Hyde Park Link with the National News Agency and the Ministry of Information, which gives us credibility, especially that nowadays we cannot really tell true from fake news. The biggest problem of modern communication is piracy and fake news."

After Al-Zaim's speech, Information Minister, Jamal Jarrah, delivered the following word:

"Lebanese media was the epitome of sophistication, responsibility, innovation, credibility, and impressive political analysis that even late Egyptian President, Jamal Abdel Nasser, began his day reading the Lebanese press.

This long history of the Lebanese press may be facing great difficulties today, but we must restore this role and credibility, this journalistic evolution and these pens, and those journalists who excelled in analyzing news and forming public opinion, not only in Lebanon, but in the entire Arab world.

Lebanon TV, which is perhaps the only remaining shared space among all the Lebanese, speaks a national language that's far from sectarianism. It speaks of Lebanese citizens and Lebanese state projects; it also cleaves to freedom of expression, yet speaks responsibly.

We see a kind of chaos on the social networking pages, which amounts to insults, slander, and fabricated news. We should endeavor to restore the origins and literature of the profession, respect the other, respect human freedom and privacy, and provide fine and good news.

Lebanon TV, the National News Agency, and Radio Lebanon are what remains of this common space among all the Lebanese.

Of course, it is our duty to move forward and keep pace with the technological progress that is taking place, because unfortunately the print press is faltering. We hope that this project -- Hyde Park Corner -- will give us a different model from what we see on social networking sites these days."

Source: National News Agency

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