Former MP and journalist Paula Yacoubian is in the headlines yet again, this time losing a defamation case brought against her by Member of Parliament Gebran Bassil
No stranger to scandal and controversy, Yacoubian left her somewhat questionable journalistic career with Future TV (a mouthpiece of the Hariri family’s Future Movement political party) to move into public life. Her first foray into politics was her disastrous TV interview where she would not admit that corruption existed during the administration of former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
Siniora is a stalwart of the Future Movement (considered the finishing school for corruption in Lebanon) and as Prime Minister, it was proven that $11 Billion USD went missing on his watch. Despite this, Yacoubian went out of her way not to criticize Siniora or any Future Movement officials of corruption.
Not to be disheartened, she supposedly split from the Future Movement and joined a new political party named “Sabaa”(Seven) which claims to represent the youth and new civic society in Lebanon. With questionable sources of funding and disputes with Yacoubian over foreign financing from NGO’s, the Sabaa Party expelled the now MP Yacoubian while bickering over dividing these questionable funds and claiming to have funded her election campaign in 2018.
Several controversies and scandals later, she has now lost a defamation case brought against her by current Member of Parliament and former Minister Gebran Bassil. This is the same Bassil who introduced the current and fairer election law in that actually allowed her to get into politics to begin with.
Having cleaned up the Telecommunications Ministry in his tenure as Telecommunications Minister, allowed the Diaspora to vote as Foreign Minister, Bassil has been in the crosshairs of the corrupt ruling class and their media outlets facing enormous assaults on his character.
As Energy Minister, Bassil kickstarted Lebanon’s oil and gas exploration and has faced countless obstructions and legislative sabotage against his 2010 Energy plan that was due to supply Lebanon with 24 hour electricity by 2015. Whether it was Hariri’s Future Movement, the Amal Movement (lead by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri), the Lebanese Forces (lead by convicted war criminal Samir Geagea) and the Progressive Socialist Party (led by feudal warlord Walid Jumblatt); all obstructed and voted against the plan to revive Lebanon’s energy sector.
Even smaller players on the Lebanese political scene like the Kataeb Party and Marada Movement lead by feudal warlords Gemayel and Frangieh respectively joined this obstructionist front to prevent Lebanon from getting 24 hour electricity. These seemingly ferocious political rivals seem to always band together to torpedo any proposed reforms or anti-corruption laws.
In 2019, Yacoubian went onto a television tabloid talk show “Sar al Wa’et” (Its About Time) and accused Bassil of receiving commissions for the power ships brought in to prop up Lebanon’s ailing power grid. Power ships as the name suggests, are floating powerplants that produce electricity cheaper than what the Lebanese power grid currently produces and are a temporary solution until the obstructions to rehabilitating the power grid and rebuilding powerplants in Lebanon are overcome.
After the accusations and rumor peddling, Bassil sued Yacoubian for defamation and during proceedings, Yacoubian retracted her false and misleading statements claiming her source were unsubstantiated social media tweets.
On the 18th of November 2019 she requested the case to be moved to another judge in order to stall proceedings, this was rejected and on the 19th of December 2019, a new date was set for the sentencing and the compensation amount to be paid.
On July 9, 2020 Yacoubian again requested to change judges which also was rejected on the 20th of October 2020 based on no new evidence or justification as to why. The court then appointed a new committee to issue a verdict on the 1st of December 2021. A week before the final sentencing of the expected verdict, Yacoubian lodged a request to change this new committee on November 25th, 2021.
It has become evident now to many political and media pundits, activists and even her own support base that she is stalling the conviction of her guilt until after the parliamentary elections scheduled in the first half of 2022.
With all the airtime Yacoubian occupies sermonizing on how laws must be respected, corruption must be combatted, and ethics must be adhered to, many are now saying that she should practice what she preaches.