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.
101 in 2019
32.44 in 2019