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The Time-Change Debate

By: Zeina Al Attar, SOM Research Assistant and PhD Candidate, Carleton University


This is an overview that accompanies coding available on an Excel spreadsheet here.


PDF version of this report and coding spreadsheet can be downloaded below.



Case Study Report_Time Change Controversy
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Coding Time Change Debate
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Introduction


This report briefly discusses our team’s exploration of opinion pieces on secularism in news sources in Lebanon. We examined three newspapers, one French-language daily, L’Orient-Le-Jour, and two Arabic-language daily Lebanese newspapers, Al-Akhbar and An-Nahar.  


This overview focuses on the contentious debate surrounding the Lebanese government’s

controversial decision to delay the implementation of Daylight-Saving’s Time in 2023. This

change was aimed at accommodating Ramadan fasting hours, and became a significant point of public discourse. In this report, I provide an overview of the controversy, detail the newspapers chosen for analysis, and outline the methodology employed in this exploratory endeavour.


 

Overview of the Time-Change Controversy


In Lebanon, the transition to daylight saving time usually occurs on the last Sunday of March,  aligning with the practice in most European countries. However, in 2023, the Lebanese  government unexpectedly postponed the implementation of Daylight-Saving Time.  


While no official reason was provided, a leaked video from a meeting between Caretaker Prime  Minister Najib Mikati and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri revealed Berri requesting the delay to  allow Muslims to break their Ramadan fast an hour earlier. This decision, set against Lebanon’s severe economic crisis and political deadlock, sparked significant debate and division within the  country.  


Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati claimed that the decision meant to relieve those fasting  during the month of Ramadan for an hour without causing any harm to any other Lebanese  component (National News Agency, 2023). However, this decision was met with opposition,  particularly from Christian leaders (Asharq Al-Awsat, 2023), who adhered to the original time  change, resulting in a split in time zones within the country.


 

Methodology 


This study examines the time zone controversy in Lebanon from February 1-May 31, 2023. The  research utilized a targeted keyword strategy in Arabic, incorporating terms such as “time zone,”  “Ramadan,” “Najib Mikati,” “time change,” “Daylight Saving,” “summer time change,” and  “Berri,” alongside references to “Acting Prime Minister” and “Prime Minister in a Caretaker  Capacity,” with variations on “Miqati.”  


The methodology involved a dual approach: an in-depth search within the Factiva database for  articles from Al-Akhbar and An-Nahar, supplemented by a broader Google search to capture  relevant articles outside the database. This comprehensive strategy aimed to encompass all relevant  opinion pieces in both newspapers. 


 

Overview of the Arabic-Language Newspapers Examined


Al Akhbar Newspaper: 


Al Akhbar launched on August 14, 2006. It is a leading daily Arabic-language newspaper based in  Beirut, Lebanon. Initially positioned as a counter to pro-US and pro-Zionist narratives, it has been  perceived by some as closely aligned with Iran and the March 8 Alliance, including Hezbollah (Hanssen & Safieddine, 2016). The newspaper champions multiple causes, including LGBTQIA+  rights, feminism, and the rights of different groups in Lebanon, like Syrians, Palestinians, and  migrant workers. It was considered until the Syrian uprising in 2011 as the radical progressive  voice of the Arab left. 


There is a lack of comprehensive and precise data concerning the circulation and distribution of  newspapers in Lebanon. The figures often stated by publications tend to be tailored to serve self promotional interests (Trombetta, 2018). Nevertheless, according to a survey conducted by Ipsos  Stat 2009, Al Akhbar emerged as one of the top five most widely-read newspapers in Beirut (Melki  et al., 2012). Furthermore, by 2010, Al Akhbar’s website ranked twelfth in a Middle East survey  of the most frequently accessed online newspapers in the MENA region (Hanssen & Safieddine,  2016). 


An-Nahar Newspaper: 


Founded in 1933 by Gebran Tueni, An-Nahar is a prominent daily Arabic-language newspaper in  Beirut, known for its liberal stance and Western orientation (Melki et al., 2012). The newspaper supports the March 14 Alliance and serves as a voice for the opposition in Lebanon. While it has  historically been a leading publication, shifts in readership and media consumption have affected  its prominence (Trombetta, 2018).  


Precise circulation and distribution figures of newspapers in Lebanon are challenging to ascertain.  Still, an Ipsos Stat survey conducted in 2009 estimated that An-Nahar consistently ranks among  Beirut’s top five most extensively read newspapers (Melki et al., 2012). At present, An-Nahar is  considered a multimedia outlet with various interactive platforms and has an estimated circulation  of approximately 40,000 copies (An-Nahar, n.d.) 


 

Bibliography 


  • Asharq Al-Awsat. (2023, March 26). Gov’t Decision to Delay Daylight Savings Puts Lebanon in  Two Time Zones. Asharq Al-Awsat. 

  • Hanssen, J., & Safieddine, H. (2016). LEBANON’S “AL-AKHBAR” AND RADICAL PRESS  CULTURE: TOWARD AN INTELLECTUAL HISTORY OF THE CONTEMPORARY  ARAB LEFT. The Arab Studies Journal, 24(1), 192–227. 

  • Melki, J., Dabbous, Y., Nasser, K., Mallat, S., Shawwa, M., Oghia, M., Bachoura, D., Shehayeb,  Z., Khozam, I., Hajj, A., Hajj, S., Dragomir, M., Thompson, M., Jamaï, A., Chan, Y.-Y.,  Nissen, C. S., Reljic, D., Southwood, R., Starks, M., … Franz, V. (2012). Mapping  Digital Media: Lebanon. THE OPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATIONS. 

  • National News Agency. (2023, March 28). Mikati urges everyone to shoulder their  responsibilities and elect a president: Cabinet reinstates daylight saving time as of  Wednesday-Thursday midnight. 

  • Trombetta, L. (2018). Lebanon—Media Landscape. European Journalism Centre (EJC).

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