International Press Institute 19 December 2006
New Report on Media in Lebanon Shows Political Instability is Undermining Press Freedom
In a report titled, “Media in Lebanon: Reporting on a Nation Divided,” the International Press Institute (IPI) provides an assessment of the current challenges to press freedom in Lebanon.
Commenting on the report, IPI Director Johann P. Fritz said “The Lebanese media offers diverse and wide-ranging opinion and analysis and enjoys a greater degree of press freedom than many of its regional neighbours, which are home to the some of the most restrictive media environments in the world.”
“In recent years journalists have paid a high price for that freedom. The brutal murders in 2005 of publisher and IPI member Gebran Tueni and leading columnist Samir Qassir and the maiming of TV-journalist May Chidiac have created a climate of fear and insecurity that threatens the vitality of the media. At a time when calm and peace are needed to rebuild after this summer’s conflict, political divisions are fuelling tensions within the country and the continued instability has created a dangerous working environment for journalists.”
From 8 to 13 December 2006, IPI carried out a fact-finding mission to Lebanon to investigate how continued political instability within the country is affecting freedom of the press and to examine the impact of the recent conflict between the militant Hezbollah group and Israel on the nation’s media.
IPI met with publishers, editors and senior correspondents from a broad cross section of the media, as well as national and international civil society representatives. While carrying out its assessment IPI looked at four main areas of inquiry: the impact of politics on the press; threats to journalists safety; censorship and restrictions on access to information and economic pressures on the media.
With regard to the current situation, the report states that, “Many publications and radio and television stations are close to political and religious groups and are, at times, promoting specific political agendas. As media outlets assert their positions on controversial issues, journalists are no longer being seen as independent observers but as representatives of political movements, open to attack from opposing factions.”
“This politicization has effected every aspect of the Lebanese media and it has become increasingly difficult for journalists to express an opinion without being accused of serving one political faction or another. Pressure from readers has increased as has editorial interference by political representatives. The greatest concern among journalists is fear for personal safety as they report in an increasingly volatile environment.”