Newspaper owned by Lebanon's Hariri prints last edition

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Readers of the Lebanese daily Al-Mustaqbal leafed through its last print edition on Thursday, its move online underscoring the challenges ailing Lebanon’s press industry.

Slideshow ( 4 images )

Al-Mustaqbal, the fourth prominent newspaper to disappear from Lebanon’s newsstands in recent years, is owned by caretaker prime minister Saad al-Hariri and echoes his political line.

It was established by his late father Rafik, a two-time prime minister who was assassinated in 2005, and shares the name of the Hariri political movement.

Editor-in-chief Bassam Nounou said it had fallen victim to both the wider problems of lower advertising revenue and competition with social media faced by news outlets globally, and to the financial woes of its parent organization.

“There’s a crisis in print journalism,” he said, saying the newspaper hoped to reduce costs while maintaining its quality as it switched to being available solely online.

“And for Mustaqbal, there is a financial crisis. They mentioned it in all their mediums,” he said, of the parent media organization that also includes a TV station.

Lebanon has long enjoyed one of the freest and most diverse presses in the Arab world, with newspapers aligned with parties from across its political spectrum.

The Hariris are the most prominent political family from Lebanon’s Sunni Muslim community. Saad al-Hariri has remained in office as caretaker prime minister since an election last year, with negotiations with rival factions continuing on a new power-sharing coalition.

“Al-Mustaqbal, between two generations” was the newspaper’s last front page headline after a run of 20 years since its founding, accompanied by an image of its 2005 edition after Rafik al-Hariri’s assassination.

Nounou said the headline referred to the effort to move from a print-focused generation to one that consumes news online.

Thursday’s edition included an editorial and a news story, followed by 30 pages of Mustaqbal front pages recording major news stories including the September 11 2001 attacks on the United States and 2008 factional fighting in Beirut.

Reporting By Alaa Kanaan, writing by Angus McDowall