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article imageStrike cripples Lebanese TV station close to PM: employee

By AFP     Aug 1, 2019 in World

A Lebanese TV station affiliated with Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri has stopped airing new programmes, with an employee at the channel saying Thursday a strike over unpaid wages was responsible.

Future TV, the main mouthpiece of Hariri's Future Movement, has not aired any new material for three consecutive days.

The reported industrial action is the first such incident since it was established in 1993 by late billionaire premier Rafiq al-Hariri, the current prime minister's father.

"This is the first time such a wide movement of this kind has taken place," said the employee, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals.

"The news broadcast and various other programs have all stopped," the employee told AFP, explaining that the station is now only airing reruns.

The incident adds to the crises facing Hariri-affiliated institutions.

In January, the family's Al-Mustaqbal newspaper issued its last print version, 20 years after it was established.

The Saudi Oger firm, a once-mighty construction firm that was the basis of the Hariri business empire, collapsed in 2017, rendering thousands jobless.

- 'Financial crisis' -

Future TV owes its staff "more than 16 months worth of wages" after years of irregular or incomplete payments due to a financial crisis, the employee said.

"The situation got worse around a year and a half ago, with employees being paid only a percentage of their monthly salaries in a sporadic and irregular manner," the employee said, adding that management has yet to respond to the strike.

Lebanon's media landscape is rife with privately-owned stations and newspapers affiliated with at least one of the country's many political parties, who are often the primary source of funding.

That has left little room for an independent press.

A series of prominent dailies have disappeared from print over the past three years due to funding shortages.

In September last year, political daily Al-Anwar went out of print after nearly 60 years due to "financial losses".

In June 2018, prestigious pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat closed its Lebanon offices, where it was first founded in 1946 before being transferred to Saudi ownership.

Its printing presses in Beirut stopped the same month, leaving its international version only available online.

In late 2016, Lebanese newspaper As-Safir closed, 42 years after publishing its first edition, with the founder saying it had run out of funds.

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