Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published the 2022 edition of the World Press Freedom Index, which evaluates the freedom of journalism in 180 countries and territories.
RSF highlights the negative effects of news and “information chaos” coming from the “unregulated online information space that encourages fake news and propaganda […] and the spread of disinformation circuits that are amplified by the way social media functions”.
In the 180 countries and territories, the RSF’s indicators are measured based on a quantitative survey of press freedom abuses against those working in the field, and a qualitative study based on the answers of press freedom experts.
Per RSF, the 2022 Press Freedom Index indicated that Lebanon has fallen 23 places from 107 in 2021 to 130 in 2022.
“While journalists thought the October 2019 revolution brought an end to public figures who are untouchable by the media, political pressure is stronger than ever,” RSF reported.
Reporters Without Borders evaluated six landscapes, noting the following:
Freedom of expression in Lebanon does exist, but in reality, the media sector is ruled by people affiliated with political parties.
Lebanon’s political parties have a “stranglehold” on the country’s media, depending on how the press considers political and community-related separatism.
“Hence, journalism has become a full-fledged weapon in the political conflict,” said the report.
Regarding the law, the media has to be clear about their financing, however, in Lebanon, some media outlets “have established especially opaque ownership structures”.
RSF continued stating that the weaponization of the judicial system obliges media outlets and journalists to be fined or sentenced to prison terms in absentia.
Journalism is affected by the economic crisis, as a big number of journalists and newsrooms based in Beirut are now depending on international aid to recover from the crisis and the Beirut blast, adding that the fuel shortage and blackouts are now preventing them from reporting on the ground.
In the sociocultural context, RSF indicated that the public opinion in Lebanon is rather conservative, with many topics considered taboo, including the criticism of cultural and religious heritage, not to mention misogyny and racism.
“Women journalists are often targeted by defamation campaigns. Political militants participate in these campaigns, especially Hezbollah activists, who use Twitter to threaten journalists,” RSF reported in the index.
Safety of journalism is also a problem in Lebanon, as, during the protests in October 2019, the attacks against journalists increased.
In addition, “law enforcement agencies resort to the disproportionate use of force. Reporters working for media outlets linked to the government are abused by demonstrators, who do not trust them.”
It is worth noting that Norway was ranked in the first position, followed by Denmark (2nd), and Sweden (3rd), with a global score of 92.65, 90.27, and 88.84 respectively.
Ranked as the worst three countries regarding press freedom are Iran (23.22), Eritrea (19.62), and North Korea (13.92).