Fadel Said Akl

Prestige issue 80, January 2000

His lively pen escorted the contemporary history of our country. Marked by the salient events of every day, it painted in a sober and clear style beautiful canvases of independent Lebanon. Fadel Said Akl is among those who fought for freedom of expression, because since 1936 he was and remained seeker of truth.

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Fadel Said Akl and his wife Antoinette, daughter of Wadih Akl, President of the Union of the Press.

He was only one year old when his father Said Akl died, martyr of independence

Native of Damour, he was born on March 15th, 1915, a year before the martyrdom of his father Said Akl. Of him, he only remembers what his uncles taught him. “Man of letters vehement and impetuous, he returned from Mexico, where he founded a newspaper and was one of the first martyrs of Independence.” Fadel Said Akl inherited of him love of journalism, since during his years of studies, he composed with Edmond Honein, his lifelong friend, a collection of manuscripts for schoolchildren. It reflects the recognition to the Jesuits he qualifies of “best teachers”. “I also remember Fouad Ephrem Boustany, himself a student at the time who introduced me with passion to the history of Lebanon. Amused, he tells me his troubles with poetry. “It was a collection of poems written with the ardor of my sixteen years. I sent it to Wadih Akl, my uncle and future father in law, president of the Press Syndicate. He torn the texts and said: “Now do everything, except poetry”. Fadel Said Akl has hardly lost his time since he made his debut in journalism at the daily Arzat Loubnan of Youssef el HETTE and creates at twenty years the weekly AL-Assima. This cultural magazine for youth was intercepted in its development by French officers following a dispute between the High Commissioner Damien de Martel and Patriarch Antoun Arida at the institution of the Lebanese Tobacco Management. Ach-Chu la, founded in 1936, was a committed socialist critique newspaper. This was at the time of the great victory of the Popular Front in France. Ach-Chu la ‘was fought for a long time. “Even President Chamoun to whom I was close enough has not spared it. “Fadel Said Akl told me proudly that he was one of the few characters simultaneously combining the two ideologies of right and left so contradictory at the time.

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© Prestige/Philippe

A scholar spirit that illuminated sixty years of journalism, and hands that helped forge the contemporary press.

He kept a diary impregnated with socialism while founding with Toufic Lutfallah Awad the right-wing party of the Lebanese unity.

After multiple suspensions, Ash-Chula now turns in 1952 to less dangerous topics: culture, society … AI-Ahali, a daily founded with Abdullah al-Hajj, is offered to the public intermittently from 1937 to 1942 when the decree of General Dantz finally banned its publication. He still had two newspapers with various contents: AL-Akl only tackling literary subjects and Al-Michaal dedicated to Lebanese popular poetry. His paternal uncles Assaad and Joseph had taken over AI-Bayraq founded by Said Akl.

Fadel was soon to enter this family business and chaired the editing from 1954 to 1960.

He was then editor in chief of four newspapers: Al-Bayraq, Al-Bashir, Raqib al-Ahwal, Sawt al-Jamia. Fadel recalls fondly 1963.

“It was the golden age of AI-Bayraq: the merger of Al-Zaman,  property of my brother-in-law Robert Abela and Beirut, published in English, belonging to my half-brother Joseph Arej Saade and also al Bayraq in a press society very flourishing at the time.

Al-Bayraq, like other publications was also suspended several times. In 1948, Bechara El Khoury and Riad Solh have banned its publication for two years. The first issue of Al Bayraq which appeared after Truce represented two arms tied, parody of chained freedom.

Authenticity and transparency of words are repeated like a leitmotiv in the discourse of Fadel Said Akl. And when I asked him if he could ever express the truth in a country like Lebanon, where this is not recommended he replied to me with humor:”Yes, the proof: the nine times I was imprisoned.” the Journalist Fadel Said Akl recalls not without some nostalgia meetings that marked his past. First, although the brief but extraordinary with the great scientist Albert Einstein. “It was in 1953 and I was in an information tour in the United States. I stopped over at Princeton University in order to meet the historian Doctor Philip Hitti . ”

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Fadel Said Akl accompanied by the historian Jawad Boulos.

The brief yet extraordinary interview with Einstein has profoundly marked Said Akl.

We were walking around in the garden of the university when my eyes turned to an old man with ruffled white hair sitting on a bench. I whispered to my companion:

“I have the impression of having seen that face.” Surprised at my ignorance, my friend replied: “But this is Albert Einstein.” I had afterwards a short interview with the great scientist who pointed with his finger to a cedar planted nearby in the campus imported from Lebanon by Dr. Hitti, then spoke simply of Lebanon he knew through his readings. “He told me of his interview with Juan Domingo Peron in 1954. “I have always admired the doctrine of justicialism. I wanted at all costs to meet the president of the Argentine Republic. It was Roufaël Lahoud, the father of Romeo Lahoud, who, despite our disagreements when he was deputy in Lebanon, arranged for me a meeting with him. Juan Peron hugged me in the South American way by repeating “amigo” and explained to me profoundly his social justice projects and economic control. ”

Back in Lebanon, I have devoted many articles to Peronism “.

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Monthly Ritual: lunch which President Franjieh who invited members of the Press Syndicate.

In 1976, a commission of Lebanese journalists traveled to Libya to meet with Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi. As soon as we entered the meeting room and in the presence of Musa al-Sadr, the leader of the Libyan state shouted at us and asked about the role of the Maronites in Lebanon. I explained to him their vital role in Lebanese politics. He replied skeptically. Marwan Hamadeh, who was sitting next to me offered the secularization of the state as a solution to the Lebanese problem. Gaddafi angrily left the room. Riad Taha who was then president of the Union of the Press and I have been so many hours stuck in the elevator at the exit of the palace. Pure coincidence or mere threat, I’ve never known … In July 1957, another delegation headed to Egypt. “Abdel Nasser received us in Alexandria. Curious journalists asked for clarification of the troubles that Egypt caused to Lebanon. Nasser turned to me and said, “I leave the Lebanese to answer” … Fadel Said Akl then told me one of his stays in prison “in the name of freedom of the press.”

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 In Brazil, Fawzi Chammas gave him the medal of Commander of the Order of the World Union of the Press.

That was in 1944. What made this imprisonment different from all others was that the law officer who had arrested him was a school friend, Abdel Aziz Chéhab. The lawyer to defend him was also an old acquaintance and his jailer, called Khaddaj, worked in one of his journals. The situation was really embarrassing for everyone. Fadel Said Akl has collaborated to most Lebanese newspapers. Member of the Press Union since 1937 and vice president since 1982, he had served as an advisor to the Minister of Information from 1970 to 1982.

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Georgina Rizk welcoming Antoinette Akl, wife of Fadel Said Akl .                               Fadel Said Akl in Hollywood with Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan) and                                                                                                                                                                 his monkey Cheetah.

He has to his credit not only thousands of articles dealing with most subjects but also many different literary works. Themes vary also: a work about the life of the martyr Said Akl, other lyric: the teacher, the student … disparate biographies of Youssef Yazbek, Fouad Haddad, his best friend killed during the events of 1958, of the brilliant speaker Michel Zakkour with the participation of Riad Honein. Fadel Said Akl also dwelt on the life of Lebanese emigrants in the world. He has devoted several writings. Elia Abu Madi, Bishop Mansour Estephan, Dr. Bassil Naief, and other illustrious names.

Publications on the persecution of peoples: the Armenian genocide during the Lebanese drama … His journalistic golden jubilee was celebrated on November 30, 1986 under the patronage of the President of the Republic. The saga of the man who, with simple and noble words, made of journalism a sacred monument. MIREILLE ZOUAIN