Freedom of the Press 2008 - Lebanon
|Publication Date||29 April 2008|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2008 - Lebanon, 29 April 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4871f6142.html [accessed 24 May 2015]|
Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 18 (of 30)
Political Environment: 21 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 16 (of 30)
Total Score: 55 (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 media does not face direct interference from the government, political developments over the last couple of years have resulted in increased security risks and self-censorship among journalists. Security services are authorized to censor all foreign magazines, books, and films before they are distributed, as well as pornography or political and religious material deemed a threat to the national security of either Lebanon or Syria. However, the 2005 withdrawal of Syrian security forces from Lebanon emboldened critics of the affairs of both countries. Journalists are prohibited from insulting the head of state or foreign leaders, and those charged with press offenses may be prosecuted in a special publications court. The editor in chief of the daily Al-Mustaqbal, Tawfiq Khattab, and journalist Fares Khasan, were each fined 50 million pounds (USD$33,000) on February 22 for libel and damaging the reputation of President Lahoud, based on charges originally filed by a Beirut prosecutor in February 2006. The charges were filed in response to an interview that was published in Al-Mustaqbal with the former Lebanese ambassador to France and a former army intelligence chief in which the performance of the president was criticized.
A May 30 United Nations Security Council resolution creating an international tribunal to prosecute those responsible for assassinating former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri also provided the tribunal with jurisdiction to prosecute those responsible for the killings and attempted murder of three members of the media in 2005. Director and columnist Gebran Tueni from Al-Nahar and columnist Samir Qassir were murdered, and May Chidiac, a talk-show host for the satellite Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, lost an arm and a leg, all from car bombings in 2005. All three had been outspoken critics of Syrian influence in Lebanon. At year's end, those responsible for the attacks had yet to be identified or prosecuted.
Reporters complained that the Lebanese Army kept them out of the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp, ostensibly for their own safety, during the army's battle with Fatah al-Islam, a small, armed group that briefly took control of the camp in May. Three photographers, Wael al-Ladifi (Al-Akhbar), Ramzi Haidar (AFP), and Assad Ahmad (Al-Balad), and videographer Ali Tahimi of Iran's Arabic satellite station Al-Alam, said Lebanese soldiers assaulted them on May 24 and told them not to film Palestinian refugees fleeing the camp. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Lebanese Army Command-Orientation Department subsequently called to apologize. On May 23, members of three television crews were attacked by civilians while conducting interviews with local residents at the site of a recent bombing in the town of Aley. The attackers were presumed to be loyalists of anti-Syrian leader Walid Jumblatt as was reported by New TV cameraman Ghassan al-Hagg to CPJ.
Lebanon features dozens of newspapers and hundreds of periodicals, many of which publish criticism of the government and offer a broad range of opinions. Competition for readers is intense due to the publication of almost a dozen daily newspapers. Newspapers have experienced a dramatic drop in advertising revenues since the conflict with Israel in the summer of 2006. 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 Lebanon today boasts one of the highest rates of broadband Internet penetration, at 25 percent. The government did not restrict access to the Internet and there were no reports of government monitoring of websites or emails. 15.4 percent of Lebanese are now able to use the Internet on a regular basis, which serves as a relatively free space for individuals and groups to express their opinions and beliefs.