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SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Journalists’ Socio-economic Rights in Lebanon

Tuesday , 19 July 2022

The plight of workers in the Lebanese media sector has worsened in recent years due to Lebanon’s economic and financial crisis, particularly in light of the decline of the Lebanese pound’s value against the US dollar. This has clearly affected the journalists’ and photographers’ salaries. Media workers are still struggling to survive and provide a decent living.

Therefore, the Samir Kassir Foundation (SKF) has launched the first edition of its semi-annual study, tackling the issue of journalists'’ and media workers’ socio-economic rights in Lebanon. SKF will hold a series of meetings with media owners to explore how well media institutions meet the needs of their employees at various levels.

In its first section, the report sheds light on the responsiveness of journalists and their interaction with the survey, and the idea behind this study. This rate is much higher than that of the media institutions’ interaction. Surprisingly, only 10 out of 27 media institutions selected to participate in the study have agreed to respond. The response rate of journalists was very high, with 81% of the journalists contacted. It is important to note that the media institutions that responded to the survey were non-partisan organisations, and most of them were independent digital platforms. All media institutions affiliated with Lebanese parties refused to respond to or interact with the survey. According to the answers provided by their management and employees, independent media organisations offer notably good working conditions in terms of salary (in fresh US dollars) and insurance.

In the second section, the report gives a detailed description of the dollar crisis and its impact on the journalists’ salaries. It also shows how media institutions interacted with that crisis, as 92% of the ones participating in the study adjusted their employees’ salaries while 67% of journalists and photographers confirmed that their salaries were slightly modified, and 33% witnessed a noticeable change in salaries. In addition, 85% of the journalists and photographers participating in the study confirmed that they get paid their total salaries on time. However, 84% of the journalists and photographers participating in the survey reported that their salaries do not guarantee a decent life and that they had to work in more than one media outlet or other institutions, such as universities and institutes, to secure their basic needs.

According to the results, 38% of the journalists working in the media institutions included in the study had verbal contracts, while 62% had written contracts. It is worth mentioning that 64% of the verbal contracts involve journalists working for news websites and 36% journalists working in the audiovisual and print sectors. 71% of the respondents claim that the need to work in several media organisations to secure additional income was the main reason why they accept verbal contracts. This means that the repercussions of the crisis prompt journalists to stick to their work to the point where they even waive some of their basic rights.

Also, 57% of the respondents stated that their employers fully paid for the transportation costs of field reporters and photographers, 37% of them reported unpaid transportation, while 6% benefit from partially paid transportation. As for the phone and Internet costs, 82% of employees personally pay for their bills because the media organisations do not bear the costs, with 11% claiming that those bills are fully paid, and 7% reporting they were partially paid.

The report also addressed the insurance issue. Hospitals only recognize a minimal amount of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) coverage and private insurance contracts, which adds to the suffering of journalists in obtaining full medical coverage in case they had work injury. The results showed that 47% of journalists and photographers were provided with the necessary insurance to protect them in the case of work injuries, while 19% of journalists and photographers only had NSSF coverage, and 34% of journalists and photographers did not      have any health insurance.

Finally, in the case of arbitrary dismissal, the data indicated that 71% were collective dismissals because the media institution had to shut down or experienced a financial crisis. However,  29% were individual dismissals because of personal conflicts with the media management. Significantly, 67% of dismissed media professionals received total compensation as stated in the contract in Lebanese pounds. They were paid at the exchange rate of 1,500 Lebanese pounds for one US dollar, meaning that their severance’s actual value was lost after the collapse of the national currency. Thirty-three percent of them confirmed they did not get their full rights and 57% of (dismissed) journalists and photographers who participated in the survey admitted that there had been political interference to prevent them from accessing their right to appeal before the relevant judiciary bodies.

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