Zaven Kouyoumdjian is a Lebanese television celebrity, talk show host and producer. Born in 1970, Zaven studied Communication Arts at the Lebanese American University.
He started his career in 1992 as a news reporter at Tele Liban, Lebanon’s state run television. In 1999, he moved to Future Television to launch his renowned pan Arab, top rated, talk show - Sire Wenfatahit. The longest running Arab social talk show (1999-2012) marked some of the unforgettable moments on Lebanese and Arab Television.
Sire Wenfatahit specifically focused on gender role issues as well as on introducing modern values and lifestyles. In his show, Zaven also contributed towards bridging the gaps between television and new emerging media, being the first Arab show to receive live emails and interact with online audiences.
In 2005, Zaven was named one of the 43 most influential people in the Middle East by "Newsweek" magazine.
Zaven published his first book, Lebanon Shot Twice in 2003. The best seller book features untold stories from the Lebanese civil war in Arabic, English and French. In its forth edition, the book is still one of the favorites in Lebanese bookstores and considered a classic.
Zaven has three other books: A Witness on Society (Arabic, 2012), God Bless Your Evening (Arabic, 2015), Lebanon On Screen: The Greatest Moments of Lebanese Television and Pop Culture (Englsih 2016).
In addition to television and publishing, Zaven is a media consultant, researcher and lecturer at various universities and media institutions.
Born in Beirut on May 15 to Ardashes Kouyoumdjian and Souad Kaadi.
Completed High School at the Armenian Evangelical College - Beirut.
Joined the Lebanese American University as a student in the faculty of Business Administration.
After completing one semester, he followed his passion and transferred to Communication Arts despite objections from his parents who were concerned his Armenian background makes him too weak at speaking and writing Arabic. They were also worried about unstable security circumstances at the time of the Lebanese civil war, as journalism then mainly involved covering military clashes.
Received his Bachelor's degree in Communication Arts with honors.
Joined Tele Liban (TL) - The state-run television of Lebanon as a reporter and later as a news anchor. Soon afterwards he became TL's news correspondent at the Presidential Palace and the Governmental House.
Increased attention in Zaven’s work earned him his first monthly show entitled "30/31". The show put the 23 year-old journalist face to face with some of post war Lebanon’s biggest issues. His extensive investigations on major news stories like the dumping of toxic wastes, the Israeli kidnapping of Moustafa Aldirani, and the ban of the Lebanese Forces militia, made headlines.
Zaven became the promotional face of TL news in a “Saatchi & Saatchi” campaign advertising the station’s re-launch.
Took part in an extensive training program on television news production with the Reuters Foundation. The program included training in major news corporations in London, Washington, and Toronto.
Started his first weekly smash hit talk show “5/7”, introducing a new genre of talk shows to Lebanese television.
Covered "Grapes of Wrath", the Israeli attack on South Lebanon. Zaven's tears, triggered by the horrifying footage of Israeli massacres at Qana and Mansouri villages, will always be remembered as one of the highlights of the 12 day long continuous coverage. That touching live portrayal of the attack was award winning: Zaven was granted the Honors Certificate of the Lebanese Press Order, establishing him as one of Lebanon’s leading war reporters on television.
“5/7” scored the highest audience rate for a single talk show episode in 1996. 52% of audience share for a single talk show episode titled “El-Fadiha” (The Scandal) made history. Discredited by some critics as immature and sensational, “5/7” became TL’s longest running talk show in the nineties (1995 – 1999).
Awarded the second prize by the UN's Development Program for Sustainable Development” for his significant work in promoting issues related to development in 5/7.
Received the honorary key of Bourj Hammoud district.
“5/7” was ended by Lebanon’s government after an episode on poverty and unemployment, and Zaven was banned from any appearance on state run television. Unable to express his anger, Zaven shaved his head bald in an expression of protest. After seven months, Zaven appeared in a televised promotion gathering his "stuff" in a box and moving from Tele Liban to Future Television to launch a new show "Sire Wenfatahit". With this young Lebanese pan Arab satellite station, Zaven now addressed the whole Arab-speaking world through a “more mature“ but still edgy format. The show received quick appreciation, and made Zaven one of the leading talk show hosts in the region.
Ranked third in the Top 5 list of Lebanon's best talk show hosts - Lebanese National Council of Audio-Visual Media survey.
Launched zavenonline.com, the first interactive website related to a single talk show in the Arab world. The website becomes a new platform for Zaven to branch out and continue his discussions on taboo issues off air.
Received the 2002 Arab Media Award of the UK International College - London for "his efforts in creating a Pan Arab Dialogue on social issues".
Married on November 1st, to Laury Haytayan, ex co-editor of Maguy Farah's program on MTV.
Received the "Best Social Talk Show" award at the Media Festival - Beirut 2002, organized by the Lebanese University.
Zaven and his wife, Laury, graced the cover of “Prestige” magazine (November issue).
Published his first book – “Lebanon Shot Twice”. The book became a best seller within the first week of its release in Beirut.
Rated as the second best talk show host in the Middle East in 2003 in a survey conducted by Zahret El Khalij magazine, issued in the United Arab Emirates.
Made television history! Hoda and Abdo, the couple whose marriage ceremony was all arranged on camera in 2002, had the birth of their first baby girl recorded after monthly follow ups on Hoda’s pregnancy.
Became a father. Baby Marc was born on November 19 after a special season on "first time parents".
Generated controversy over reality TV.
Zaven and his wife Laury graced the cover of "Nadine Mom and Baby" magazine’s Christmas issue in a celebration of their new born baby.
Stayed as "number one" talk show host in the Middle East in Zahret El Khalij magazine’s annual survey.
Interviewed Queen Rania of Jordan after terrorist attacks in Amman.
Launched an Arab book signing tour for his book Lebanon Shot Twice, in association with charity organizations.
Interviewed Queen Sylvia of Sweden on her efforts in confronting drug abuse.
Rated as the best talk show host in the Middle East in the annual survey of Zahret El Khalij magazine. Sire Winfatahet was also selected as the best talk show in the Middle East.
Established a new TV milestone: For the first time on any Arab TV show, viewers see the face of HIV. A studio audience of HIV positive guests speak out and confront discrimination and stigma.
Issues the second edition of his book" Lebanon Shot Twice". A third edition was published in 2007.
Became the first male to appear on the cover of Zahret El khalij magazine on Father's Day.
Started an inspirational 'Power of Life' campaign to help Lebanese society regain its faith in its future after the assassination of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri.
Made it to the cover of Newsweek: The International Magazine listed Zaven as one of 43 most influential people in the Arab World.
Along with the Lebanese diva Fairuz, the Saudi “Al-Riyadh” newspaper named Zaven as one of the only two Lebanese who made a difference in Saudi Arabia in 2005.
Graced the January 2006 cover of Al-Hasnaa Magazine along with pop singer Amal Hijazi wearing pajamas, as a promotion for a campaign entitled "Spend your time at home".
Received the "Best Social Talk Show" award at the fourth Media Festival - Beirut 2006, organized by the Lebanese University.
Launched “Ana Ala’an” (Me Now), a new reality TV experience: The special series aimed at giving a chance for Arab youth to express their thoughts and feelings on TV using their personal cameras.
Reflecting political unrest in Lebanon, Zaven declared: “I have become a sectarian person” in an interview on Al-Jadeed Television. Zaven’s statement shocked his audiences and stirred controversy.
Became dad to a second baby boy: Ara was born on May 24, 2007.
Launched the first Arab television book club “Nisrine Jaber Book Club”; described by critics as reconciliation between books and TV.
Received “Student Choice Award 2008” for the best social talk show, in an all-star LAU student ceremony at UNESCO Palace – Beirut.
HRH Princess A’dela Bint Abdullah, CEO of Sanad Children Cancer Support Society (NGO), honored Zaven with a certificate of appreciation for his inspiring efforts.
2009 - 2010
Presented two “Sire Wenfatahit” sequels live online through his zavenonline.com website. The first experience of its kind in the Arab world paved the way for a new media dimension in Lebanon to bridge the gap between television and the internet.
In celebration of the Arab Deaf Child Week, Lebanese Notre Dame University honored Zaven, alongside five other popular media personalities, for his work on humanitarian issues.
A Lebanese court issued a ten day jail sentence and a fine of ten million Lebanese Liras against Zaven. The sentence stemmed from a lawsuit following a live episode in 2004.
Back to the annual Top 5 Arab media personalities list of Zahret El Khalij magazine.
Egyptian "Good News TV" magazine named Zaven as one of the best 50 Arab talk show hosts shaping the present Arab satellite scene.
Honored in a ceremony by the Municipality of Ghazir in Keserwan (Mount Lebanon) along with nine of the town’s notables for their lifetime achievements and good will.
Celebrated Jordan River Foundation's fifth annual anniversary as a guest of honor in its annual gala dinner in the presence of King Abdullah II and Queen Rania.
Won the best social talk show award of the 3rd Arab Youth Media Forum 2010 - Amman.
Ranked among the Top 5 list of the Emirati "Zahret El Khalij" magazine's annual best Arab talk show hosts list in 2009 and 2010.
Was part of the jury of the 11th Annual National Speech Competition, organized by LAU and the English Speaking Union in Lebanon. (He becomes a constant member of the jury).
Started an Arab tour in “Sire Wenfathit” titled “Proud / Ashamed”. The tour included Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE, Iraq and Tunis and its aim was to meet Arab youth and discuss with them what Zaven called “the transformations of the Arab world”.
Received the Pan Arab Web’s “Outstanding Achievement Award” in a prestigious event organized by the Pan Arab Web Awards on the occasion of the ten year anniversary of zavenonline.com.
2012 - 2014
Ranked number three on the “30 Most Influential People on Twitter in Lebanon” list created by 2famous.tv. (Based on Tweet Grader).
Zaven ends his 13-year long show "Sire Wenfatahit" on July 15 in a special series of countdown episodes.
In August, Zaven kicks off his new show "3alAkid" on Future TV. Critics welcomed the show with enthusiasm. (The show continues for two seasons. Last episode was aired in June 30, 2014).
Honored with the Arab Social Responsibility Organization’s golden award 2013 for new show “AalAkid” in a grand ceremony in Dubai.
Signs second book with Dr Dolly Habbal, “Witness on Society” in Beirut Book fair. (Publishers: Academia).
The Lebanese State Alumni Community (LSAC) honors Zaven with one of its five annual awards for his “great achievement in promoting freedom of speech and the values of democracy and human rights through his social talk shows”.
Received the Lebanon Web Awards Prize (LWAC 2013) for best website - media category.
Named Best Media Personality on Social Media at the Social Responsibility Awards – Beirut 2013 (SMA) poll.
For the second consecutive year, honored with the Arab Social Responsibility Organization’s golden award 2014.
Starts his new show "Bala Toul Sire" (2014): back to current affairs and open platforms.
2015 - 2016
Granted the certificate of appreciation of the Arab Federation for Youth and Environment (Arab League) for being the guest of honor on the closing ceremony of the Arab Environment Forum at Jinan University in Tripoli (Lebanon).
Honored with the 2015 Murex D’Or distinction award for 20 years of television talk shows that changed the face of Arab talk TV.
Publishes his third book “Assaad Allah Ou Massakoum” on Lebanon’s greatest 100 golden age television moments in a “talk of the town” signing event at Antoine bookstore in Beirut Souks. (Publishers: Hachette Antoine).
Honored with AlHaitham Award 2015 for Arab distinction during the seventh edition of the Arab Media Youth Forum in Amman – Jordan.
Granted an honorary Palestinian passport by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for his continuous support of the Palestinian cause.
Among five personalities who were honored with the 2016 Lebanese Franchise Association's 10th anniversary token of appreciation for his work in shaping Lebanon’s civil war collective memory in his book "Lebanon Shot Twice".
Granted the annual award of the Italian “International Literary Cenacle AltreVoci” association in a ceremony held in Beirut, in partnership of the Lebanese “Friends of Book” foundation and Dr. Hafez Haidar.
Publishes his forth book “Lebanon On Screen” with the collaboration of Alba University and the American embassy in Beirut. The first of its kind book in English narrates the greatest moments of Lebanese television and pop culture. (Publishers: Hachette Antoine).