SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

RSF: Lebanon Loses Ground in the Annual Press Freedom Ranking

Tuesday , 21 April 2020

Reporters without Borders (RSF) published today, Tuesday, April 21, 2020, its annual World Press Freedom Ranking. Lebanon is still following the downward trend begun in 2015, losing one additional position compared to the 2019 edition to reach the 102nd rank out of 180.

RSF explains Lebanon's situation as follows:

Highly politicized media, free speech under attack

Lebanon’s media are outspoken but also extremely politicized and polarized. Its newspapers, radio stations and TV channels serve as the mouthpieces of political parties or businessmen. Lebanon’s criminal code regards defamation and the dissemination of false information as crimes and defines them very broadly. It is disturbing to see how the courts are used to prosecute media outlets and journalists who take any interest in reputedly all-powerful politicians or religious leaders. In recent years, the courts have harassed TV presenters who have allowed guests to criticize officials on the air, and newspapers that have investigated corruption. Journalists can be prosecuted by military or print media courts and can be sentenced to imprisonment although, in practice, the courts usually fine them and reserve prison sentences for those being tried in absentia.
Syrian refugees and relations with Israel are also very sensitive issues. The October 2019 “revolution” has lifted the taboo on criticizing previously “untouchable” figures, but attacks on the media have intensified during the demonstrations. The police have used disproportionate force against journalists and have attacked them although they were clearly identifiable as such. Reporters working for pro-government media have been treated with suspicion by demonstrators and some have been roughed up. Others identified by members of their community have been accused of being traitors if their reporting was regarded as unfavourable. Finally, bloggers and online journalists continue to receive subpoenas from the “bureau for combatting cyber-crimes” if something they have posted on social media has elicited a complaint from a member of the public, often a prominent person linked to the government.


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