Opinion makers

Some emerging voices – often not aligned with any political group – have recently created a space with blogs and online social networking tools forming a growing community of online activists. These people might exert some influence in the socio-political and cultural realms, especially among the youngest generations, but they still have to compete with the power of traditional media.

At the same time, social activism has benefited from digitisation. As the report entitled Mapping Digital Media by Open Society points out, the first draft of a comprehensive animal rights law, the banning of the honour crime code from the law, the protection of 170 historic buildings slated for demolition and greater media coverage of issues concerning migrant/domestic workers were all achieved through digital activism. These organisations’ official websites and Facebook pages and groups are the most commonly used digital tools, and have the greatest impact.

Despite a number of disadvantages (ie. poor Internet speed, lack of specific regulations, censorship and scarce government support) activists broadly agree that overall digitisation has positively affected their online activities and their impact.

According to the website 2Famous, which ranks blogs using Google PageRank, the Alexa global ranking system and links to the websites, the top ten Lebanese blogs in 2012 were:

+961, Blog Baladi, The Angry Arab News Service, Anissa’s blog, Design Fetish, All Day I Dream of Photography, Strawberry Blu, NittyGriddy, Beirut Spring, Gino’s Blog. This list reveals a dominance of blogs about current events, lifestyle and food.

The Angry Arab News Service was launched in September 2003 by Lebanese-American professor of political science As‘ad Abu Khalil. The blog is known for its insightful political analysis, peppered with sarcastic commentary. Lebanese composer, pianist and playwright, Ziad Rahbani, has been also a charismatic figure who has always satirised Lebanese politics and criticised the traditional political establishment. Since 2006 he has had a political column on Al-Akhbar and has received a lot of criticism and divided his long-time fans, due to his controversial positions in favour of the Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian supporters in the context of the ongoing conflict.

Among the ten most followed Twitter accounts in Lebanon, only one does not belong to a star of the entertainment world: the Lebanese Al-Arabiyya TV presenter and award-winning journalist Rima Makatabi, with more than 2 million followers. Other important personalities that are particularly followed from the media sector are mainly TV political talk show hosts such as Marcel Ghanem (LBC) and Imad Marmal (Al-Manar), as well as Ghassan Ben Jiddo, the director of Al-Mayadin, and Gisèle Khoury (former LBC and Al-Arabiya, now BBC Arabic). Among influent opinion makers there are newspapers columnists, such as Ghassan Charbil and Jihad Khazen from the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat; Michel Hajj Georgeou, writing for the French speaking L’Orient-Le Jour; Ibrahim al Amin, co-founder and editor in chief of Al-Akhbar.