…Literature is an excellent vehicle to unobtrusively express political opinions without actually being in politics…
“Discourse by Andromache to Othello” M.C., Le Jour, 20th November 1943
Whilst Michel Chiha’s quiet but consistent efforts at advancing the interests of Lebanon with the Mandate authorities continued unabated, as a political thinker in his own right and just as he had already begun in Egypt he expressed his opinion and thoughts through a gargantuan output of daily editorials first published in Alexander Khoury’s Le Réveil, the only daily French-language newspaper to be printed in Beirut at the time.
“…One must not shy away from addressing the big topics with the readership of a daily newspaper. A bias of this sort would limit their interest to the communal or the mundane. To do so would be offensive to every citizen…”
‘The daily prose’, M.C., Le Jour, 21st March 1944
By 1933-34 a series of national domestic issues inspired him to air his opinions more constructively by publishing topical essays through a regular channel bent on being informative as well as exposing the reality of political events of the day. In 1937 he bought the Le Jour newspaper originally founded in 1934 by Charles Ammoun and Mohammad Aboud Abd el-Razzak. His express intention was to create a platform for the open discussion of daily issues faced by the Lebanese as well as providing the French political milieu with an enlightened version of Lebanese politics. Charles Helou was, until 1946, its Editor until he took up his appointment as Ambassador of Lebanon to the Holy See in Rome. He later held two ministerial posts and in due course was elected President of the Lebanese Republic in 1964.
By virtue of its support for the presidential candidate Béchara el-Khoury Le Jour became famous for its editorial jousting with its rival L’ Orient newspaper, which supported the candidacy of Emile Eddé and set the tone and standard of an enlightened press famous throughout the region for its liberty of expression. By 1943, when Lebanon declared independence, Michel Chiha had already published several thousand tightly written dialectic articles revealing with incisive precision his particular take on the contemporary as well as the long term effects of a burgeoning politically independent Levant. He continued to write and publish constantly until his death in 1954.
Under his management Le Jour championed a new political vernacular and a new set of principles which were to become a common yardstick such as the notion of Lebanon as the nation of ‘collaborating minorities’ or Lebanon the ‘haven state’ etc…In spite of knowing that it would never prove to be a viable commercial enterprise, Michel Chiha nevertheless personally took on Le Jour’s financial deficits. He believed in the need for a legitimate and uncompromisingly neutral press with its own unassailable platform where national and communal issues could be debated and explored in the interest of the country. He would write a vast number of leading editorials consistently expounding, over the years, his unwavering political views.
The ‘Le Jour’ newspaper remained in the Chiha family’s control for 33 years. It was sold in 1970, sixteen years after the death of Michel Chiha, when it merged with L’Orient to become L’Orient-Le Jour under its Chief Editor Georges Naccache who ran the newspaper until his death on the 8th May 1972. It remains in circulation to this day.
“…In a country like ours, where little or nothing is ever debated in Parliament, the Press must act as a crucial counterweight even though the Government actively tries to reduce it to its current deplorable state of servility or use it as a platform for government outcry”