Ayman Mhanna: Together, we share media-related values and visions

Ayman Mhanna: Together, we share media-related values and visions

November 16, 2021

Ayman Mhanna has worked as Executive Director of the Beirut-based Samir Kassir Foundation since 2011. The organisation promotes a culture of democracy in Lebanon and throughout the Arab world, by fostering new talents in the free press.

Mhanna’s collaboration with CFI dates back to 2012, aymanwhen he was invited to the 4M forum in Montpellier. This series of meetings, for players in new media outlets from the Mediterranean region, had been instigated by the agency a year earlier. Several projects in connection with the 4M label have been developed since then.
Mhanna recalled that the most significant project was the 4M conference in Beirut in 2014: this gathering of hundreds of project leaders, journalists and experts was highly innovative. Several online media players from the Middle East received full training in innovative digital media management over a period of six months in Beirut, culminating in the Beirut 4M forum in November 2014.

Starting in 2019, the “Land of the Cedars” experienced a wave of uprisings, initiated by young people expressing their new aspirations for freedom and good governance, in particular through the media. But in return, the people behind these movements were also subjected to heavy repression. As Mhanna explained: In Lebanon, political life and the press are both active, but the weight of repression persists. So it is necessary to combat the latter.

According to him, this fight must be carried out to combat both the culture of impunity and the political and sectarian curbs on the media. It was within this context that CFI cooperated on a project examining journalist safety. Following the explosion at the port of Beirut on 4 August 2020, the Foundation also launched a fund-raising appeal, reaching out to its contacts to set up a support fund for the media, to which the agency was one of the leading contributors.

Its partnership with CFI in the Ebticar and D-Jil * projects, aimed respectively at strengthening online media in the southern Mediterranean region and facilitating young people’s access to news in the Arab world, propelled the Samir Kassir Foundation to the forefront, creating and developing independent media outlets throughout the region. According to Mhanna, this is of fundamental importance in a region that has such need of independent voices.

The agency also helped the Foundation branch out beyond the four countries in which it had mainly operated hitherto (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine). Mhanna saw the agency’s role as that of a “bridge”, leveraging their connections with independent media outlets in Morocco, Algeria, Iraq, Tunisia and Egypt.

Our collaboration with CFI contributed to the emergence of new media, which remains a source of great pride for us.

Through the testimonies, portraits of journalists and the human adventures of our series Aswat Jadida ("New Voices", in Arabic), discover ten years of support for media development in the Arab world.

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