The Journey of Ad-Dabbour – Lebanon’s Weekly Satirical Magazine

Influenced by the Arab cultural Nahda, Youssef Moukarzel was passionate about journalism and a fervent believer in democracy and freedom. He thought that the answer to combine these interests and ideologies was through freedom of expression and therefore created Ad-Dabbour in 1922, a weekly satirical magazine, a year after the launch of Annahar in 1921.

In tough political times with Lebanon under French mandate, democracy fighting a lost war and journalists fleeing the country, the idea of creating a satirical magazine seemed like a crazy endeavor.

The path to freedom and democracy was at its beginning and so was the establishment of an independent country since the State of Greater Lebanon (Dawlat Loubnan al-Kabir) was just proclaimed in 1920 by General Gouraud. Moukarzel wanted to take part in this crucial historical era and accompany his country in the fight for independence through his magazine and press institution, which he wanted to have an active role in this adventure towards freedom.

The success story of Ad-Dabbour was fraught with difficulties and challenges. On many occasions, Moukarzel was physically assaulted and even imprisoned, and the magazine repeatedly suspended. Nevertheless, he never lost faith in his vision and mission, and Ad-Dabbour became a symbol of freedom and independence; it is even mentioned in schoolbooks that Lebanon was a pioneer in having a satirical magazine, which many countries around the world, including developed ones, still don't have.

After the death of its founder in 1944, Ad-Dabbour continued to be published until 1977 when it was forced to close due to the civil war. But in equally challenging situations to the ones in 1922, Joseph Moukarzel, Youssef’s nephew, relaunched it in the year 2000 when Lebanon was still under the Syrian occupation. Caricatures featured in the magazine were daring, touching many key issues and criticizing even the Syrian regime. 

Ad-Dabbour was the first magazine in Lebanon to use visuals as a form of expression, and since its beginnings adopted them as the basis of its concept.  At that time the technique was difficult as the gravure practice comprises a lot of graphics and visuals: the art of expression through the image.

Prominent Lebanese caricaturists and cartoonists contributed to the magazine and others still do including late Pierre Sadek, Stavro Jabra, Elie Saliba, Christianne Boustani, in addition to the new generation.

Unfortunately, nowadays the satirical art of caricature lost some of its importance with infographics being the new trend. But Joseph Moukarzel, among many others, still believes in this art and will keep on pushing for it. 

The future of Dabbour is in correlation with that of the country and its situation. Moukarzel remains positive and believes that Lebanon will flourish again and enter a new prosperous era, being the hub from where neighboring countries will be rebuilt. He also trusts the Lebanese youth who should be given the opportunity to actively take part in the country’s development and give them good reasons to stay instead of encouraging them to leave and benefit other countries with their know-how, skills and abilities.

Ad-Dabbour is still faithful to the same mission: highlighting problems and putting the finger on the wound to trigger actions and create solutions. Unlike many politicians and religious figures that demoralize the population when criticizing or addressing issues, the caricaturists’ way is more efficient as it tackles problems in a satirical and positive approach, generating smiles and a better mood to find answers.

Joseph Moukarzel, Ph.D., Dean of the Faculty of Information and Communication