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Freedom of the Press - Lebanon (2007)

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 2 May 2007
Cite as Freedom House, Freedom of the Press - Lebanon (2007), 2 May 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/478cd52bc.html [accessed 21 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 19 (of 30)
Political Environment: 25 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 15 (of 30)
Total Score: 19 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)

While the media have more freedom in Lebanon than in other countries in the region, they still face political and judicial obstacles. The constitution provides for freedom of the press, and although the press does not face direct interference from the government, recent political developments have resulted in an increase in self-censorship among journalists. Under law, pornography or political and religious material deemed a threat to national security can be censored by the government. Security services are authorized to censor all foreign magazines, books, and films before they are distributed in Lebanon. Journalists and publications accused of press offenses may be prosecuted in a special publications court. In March, criminal libel charges were brought against two journalists accused of insulting and defaming the president. However, in general government efforts to limit journalists are much less effective than previously, as the diversity of media outlets and the momentum of political events have made it increasingly difficult to restrict press coverage.

The most significant development of 2006 was the July military conflict between Israel and Lebanon. Israeli strikes killed 2 journalists and injured 10. Israeli warplanes bombed Al-Manar television, which is funded and operated by Hezbollah, and destroyed the Fiah transmission tower of the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC), temporarily taking the station off the air, killing LBC technician Sleiman Chidiac, and injuring two other employees. Press photographer Layal Najib was killed while covering Israeli attacks in southern Lebanon when a missile exploded near her car in Qana. Significant damage to roads and bridges limited journalists' ability to travel within the country throughout the conflict. Increased tension as a result of the violence also led to greater dangers for journalists covering the news; there were several cases late in the year in which journalists covering Hezbollah demonstrations were attacked and injured.

No significant progress was made in the investigations of the 2005 attacks on media workers who spoke out against Syria's role in Lebanon. All victims of car bombs, Samir Kassir and Gibran Tueni were both killed, while May Chidiac survived but lost an arm and a leg as a result of the attack. On June 17, a prosecuting judge was assigned to pursue the murder case of Gibran Tueni, managing editor of the daily paper Al-Nahar. French judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere, known for his prosecution of high-profile terrorism cases, went to Beirut in July to investigate the death of Franco-Lebanese journalist Samir Kassir, who was killed in June 2005. Those responsible for all three attacks have yet to be identified or prosecuted.

Lebanon features dozens of newspapers and hundreds of periodicals, many of which publish criticism of the government. Because almost a dozen daily newspapers are published in Lebanon, competition for readers is quite stiff. Newspapers have experienced a dramatic drop in advertising revenues since the beginning of the conflict with Israel over the summer. All national daily newspapers are privately owned, as are most television and radio stations, including six independent television and satellite stations and nearly three dozen independent radio stations. However, many media outlets are linked to political and/or sectarian interests that exert significant influence over content. Access to satellite television has grown substantially over the last decade, and 15.4 percent of Lebanese are now able to use the internet on a regular basis.

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