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Another one bites the dust

Another one bites the dust

The Daily Star, Lebanon’s only English-language newspaper, faces bankruptcy.

January 26, 2009 10:59 by

Lebanon’s Daily Star has not been printed since January 14. Nor has the English-language daily’s Web site been updated. The newspaper’s publisher, Jamil Mroue, says the paper is in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings and could be closed down for good.

The Star owes Standard Chartered Bank around $791,000, says Mroue. (Zawya Dow Jones news wire says the debt is $1.7 million). The sum is in part an overdraft borrowed when the newspaper expanded its operations to become more regional in the early 2000s, and interest on that loan.

Mroue says the bank set its interest rates high, but accepts that, “If this bank is after getting its money, it is a perfectly legitimate thing to do.” However he says proceedings moved suspiciously fast once the case came to court.

The publisher planned to appeal when the bankruptcy proceedings got to court on the 14th of last month. He wasn’t expecting the court to act so swiftly, though. “At 1.30pm, the court took the decision,” he tells Communicate. “At 3.00pm they were in our offices.”

Reports from Beirut say the offices of the Daily Star are sealed shut with wax and paper, and that the only soul in the building is a security guard. If Mroue’s appeal is unsuccessful, Standard Chartered Bank will begin selling off the Star’s assets.

In the hope that the newspaper can be saved, Mroue has been “diligently” seeking interested parties to invest $1 million in his publication. “We are just trying to make a newspaper that is significant in this country, to maintain its course in this country,” he says.

A spokesman for Standard Chartered Bank told Communicate magazine it would be inappropriate for the bank to comment on a legal issue.

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1 Comment

  1. Pranay Gupte on January 30, 2009 7:58 am

    I hope that The Daily Star survives. Jamil Mroue is a friend — and he is an extraordinary publisher and journalist, a man of great courage.


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