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Your Excellency, Minister of Information Jamal Jarrah
Ahla w sahla fikon bi beit el eti7ad el orope fi lebnen! W mabrouk la lebnen lal houkoume el jdide!
How exciting it is to meet exactly one week after the formation of the new government. I'm sure you have all been working hard covering the long formation process and now in the past week been busy introducing the new ministers and their portfolios to the public.
But this is only the beginning. The Lebanese people and the international community have high expectations to the new government, whose success will be determined by its capacity to address the challenges the country faces. I am referring in particular to the implementation of the necessary institutional, economic and social reforms agreed during the CEDRE conference. These reforms, together with anti-corruption measures, can make a real difference in the lives of Lebanese citizens. And we were happy to hear the Prime Minister stress exactly those issues when all the EU ambassadors met with him this morning.
In this context and more than ever, the Lebanese public needs accurate, fact-checked information that will guide them in their daily decisions. So your role will be essential during the upcoming period. You are the source of information of every Lebanese citizen, and you have the immense responsibility of challenging their critical thinking, as much as holding the people's representatives accountable. Without you, people are left to guess. Without you, people cannot hold their officials accountable.
It is my pleasure to host this annual gathering where the European Union honours you, journalists and representatives of all media in Lebanon.
I am happy to see that this gathering's crowd is evolving over the years. I see familiar faces with us tonight, veterans of Lebanon's journalism, but also newcomers from both traditional and new media outlets.
Journalism in Lebanon and worldwide has been subject to many changes and challenges in the past years. The digital age has completely transformed the media landscape, introducing new technologies, new platforms and new ways of consuming news. While these changes have fundamentally altered the nature of traditional media in our society, they have also paved the way for a new generation of journalists and reporters. But whatever the platform is, you all are 'democracy's watchdogs'.
There is no more important role in a democracy than that of a free press. We as European Union firmly believe that everyone is free to hold and express opinions and to receive and share information without interference by public authorities. Every year, in this gathering and in similar occasions, we are reminded of the declining situation of freedom of expression worldwide. Lebanon is an exception to this trend, but we have been witnessing some worrying developments when it comes to freedom of expression and freedom of the press also in Lebanon. This is an issue we constantly raise in our political dialogue with the authorities.
I would like to thank you for your commitment in covering the European Union's work in Lebanon. We will never repeat it enough; Europe is Lebanon's best friend. We have projects in every region of Lebanon, in all the sectors you can possibly think of. We are here to support Lebanon in human rights, education, security, health, environment, job creation, and so much more. We are also here to engage in an open political dialogue at every level of the decision-making process. By working together with you, we know that the voice of every Lebanese citizen is heard.
Thank you for your support – and a salute to all of you here tonight, for being the dynamic, energetic and passionate press that you are.