State of the media



Lebanon has long enjoyed an open and very diverse media environment and is sometimes referred to as a “beacon of plurality” in the region.

However, political interests have a strong influence on the media because many of its owners are affiliated to a religious sect or political party.

The recent escalation of political tension has narrowed the margin between politics and the media, with the media often taking sides.

The assassination of several anti-Syrian journalists safety concerns has increased safety concerns, and, as a side effect, the level of self-censorship has increased as well.

Journalists also respect other taboos, such as Lebanon’s relation with Israel.

Lebanon is still officially at war with Israel, and it is illegal for any Lebanese citizen, including journalists, to enter into contact with an Israeli citizen.

William A. Rugh, in his Arab Mass Media (2004), classified the Lebanese press as "diverse.”

He wrote that "newspapers are clearly different from each other in content and apparent political tendency as well as in style.”

Furthermore, they tend to be privately owned and reflect a variety of viewpoints.


Written press

There are dozens of daily newspapers and hundreds of periodicals in Lebanon.

The press is mainly independent or party-based.

The largest dailies are the Arabic-language An Nahar, As-Safir, and Al-Akhbar, the English-language Daily Star, and the French-language L’Orient-Le Jour.

The press routinely criticizes government policies, authorities and leaders, often reflecting the opinions of their financial backers, who are usually representatives of various sectarian groups and political factions.


Audiovisual media


Television and radio stations are largely private-owned, often by the religious sects or political parties, and they tend to reflect their owners' views in their political programming.

There are seven television stations and thirty radio stations.

Only one television and one radio station are run by the state.

Lebanese television and radio have a reputation for high quality and serve as a model for the Arab world.

During the civil war the radio market was unregulated, with more than one-hundred stations on the air.

After the introduction of the 1994 law, the government licensed a smaller number of private radio stations.


Online media


The internet and telecommunication infrastructure in Lebanon was rebuilt in the 1990s.

Today, there are about 550,000 internet users and a total of sixteen Internet providers.

But Internet connections are slow and expensive due to state regulations that stifle free-market competition.

Some progress was made with the long-awaited introduction of ADSL services in 2007.

There are about 7,000 Lebanese websites, an unusually high number compared to other Arab countries.

The telecommunications sector is supervised by the Lebanese Ministry of Information whilst Internet providers are regulated by the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (www.tra.gov.lb).

Lebanon enjoys freedom of press and publication, and that applies to online as well.

There are no special rules or regulations for publishing online, and no websites have been blocked or otherwise censored.


News agencies

Lebanon's official news agency is the National News Agency, or Al-Wikala Al-Wataniya Lil An-Ba'.


Media organizations

The main professional media organizations are the Lebanese Journalist Union and the Publishers Union.

Reflecting the confessional political system in Lebanon, the presidents of both organizations are appointed according to religious affiliation.

Both organizations focus exclusively on the print media.

Neither are member of international professional media organizations.

Foreign journalists can easily obtain a temporary press pass from the Ministry of Information on presentation of a letter of accreditation and a valid visa.

The Maharat Foundation is a new organization, founded by a group of young journalists.

It aims to strengthen professionalism, promote the concept of democracy, and advocate press freedom.

Their website is www.maharatfoundation.org (in English and Arabic). 


Media policies


In 1994, the government introduced a new press and broadcasting law in an attempt to restructure the completely unregulated post-civil war media landscape.

As a result, the number of political publication licensas was brought down from over four-hundred to twenty-five, including fifteen Arabic-language dailies.

The press law extended more control over print media, including the right to detain and impose fines on journalists and publishers for defamation or inciting sectarian strife.

The audiovisual media law established a licensing board and in doing so shut down a number of successful TV channels.

Those that were re-licensed under the new law were basically the stations belonging to the major political patrons.

Journalists can be fined up to 200 million LL (about 1,100 euros) for defamation of the president or other heads of state under the 1994 media law.

Inciting sectarian strife can lead to fines up to 200 million LL (about 1,100 euro) under the Penal Code.

There is no institutionalized pre-censorship in Lebanon but random pre-publication checks by the authorities can take place.

The audiovisual media law bans the live broadcasting of unauthorized political gatherings and some religious events.

It also prohibits commentaries deemed damaging to the nation's economy.

The Ministry of Information can shut down broadcasters or publishers deemed not conforming to the law but it has not done so since the Syrian withdrawal in 2005.