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Lebanon’s press freedom confronts “stronger” political pressure

Compiled annually, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) unveiled the 21st edition of the World Press Freedom Index, highlighting significant radical changes linked to political, social, and technological disruption, as the situation is “very serious” in 31 countries, “difficult” in 42, “problematic” in 55, and “good” or “satisfactory” in 52 countries.  

As the environment for journalism is bad in seven out of ten countries, according to the 2023 World Press Freedom Index evaluating the journalism environment in 180 countries and territories, Lebanon ranked 119/180. In 2021, Lebanon ranked 107; however, it fell 23 places to 130 in 2022. 

Based on the index, in Lebanon, political pressure on the media is “stronger than ever,” especially as the country faces a worsening economic crisis and efforts to paralyze the Beirut Port explosion’s investigation. 

Regarding economic context, the media suffers from “the effects of the historic financial crisis afflicting the country” and the Beirut blast, as several Beirut-based journalists and news media affected by the explosion have depended on international aid to cope with the crisis. 

In addition, fuel shortages and blackouts prevented many of them from reporting in the field. 

The 2023 World Press Freedom Index stated that in Lebanon, public opinion is “predominantly conservative,” as some topics are considered taboo, including criticism of Lebanon’s cultural and religious heritage.  

Misogyny and racism are also not uncommon since women journalists are often the target of smear campaigns. Additionally, according to the index, “political activists, especially Hezbollah supporters, participate in intimidation campaigns and use Twitter to threaten journalists.” 

Further, the RSF index stated that attacks and lawsuits against journalists amplified since the start of the economic crisis and the Beirut blast, saying that “security forces use disproportionate force against reporters.” 

In terms of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the region continues to be the “world’s most dangerous region for journalists, with a situation classified as “very bad” in more than half of its countries,” said the 2023 World Press Freedom Index.

Source: lbcgroup