Maharat Foundation launches “Lebanon FoE Tracker” platform
Here comes World Press Freedom day, which falls on the third of May of each year, and Lebanon is still witnessing a continuous deterioration of its Freedom of Expression and media Freedom indicators in ways that do not comply with international standards, and in light of the failure to prioritize reform of media laws at the level of the anticipated reform workshop during the situation Lebanon is currently going through.
On this occasion, Maharat Foundation launches a platform that tracks laws related to freedom of expression in Lebanon, Lebanon FoE Tracker. It is a platform in both Arabic and English that brings together all the current Lebanese laws related to freedom of expression and freedom of the media, including penal laws that hinder the freedom of information circulation. The platform examines the relevant legal articles according to their compliance with the international standards that Lebanon has committed to in the introduction of its Constitution.
The methodology adopted on this platform depends either on the analysis of the laws themselves, such as the Publications Law, the Penal Code, the Military Judiciary Law, the prior censorship laws, the audio-visual law, access to information law, electronic transactions law and the Bylaws of the House of Representatives or on themes such as libel, defamation, false news and Prior Censorship, protection of journalists, hate speech and blasphemy.
Executive Director of Maharat Rola Mikhael states "This simplified methodology and presentation allows researchers, journalists, activists, academics and interested agents to track the reality of the current laws in Lebanon in terms of their compliance with international standards, as well as to search by themes and laws related to them and their compliance with international standards as well. This platform shows that most laws are not in compliance to the standards and therefore restricts freedom of media and expression, the cornerstone of any desired democracy.
From this point, Maharat Foundation calls on, on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day and at the doors of the parliamentary elections on May 15, and at a time when Lebanon demands radical reforms, the House of Representatives to put the matter of reforming media laws and all laws related to freedom of expression among its priorities, provided that any reform should take into account international standards and obligations. Mikhael continues: "Any reform at the level of governance and strengthening accountability cannot be completed without an environment that guarantees freedom of the media, protects the work of journalists and activists, and guarantees the free circulation of information related to public affairs."
Likewise, any new government after the elections must adhere to the same path to guarantee freedom of media and expression in implementation at the local as well as international levels, and Lebanon will not be exposed as officially breaching its international obligations in terms of guaranteeing basic freedoms, as happened in the current and previous government. Lebanon has not recently signed the statement issued by the Media Freedom Coalition on March 8, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, in which the signatory states committed to paying serious attention to the escalating and disproportional attacks, bullying campaigns, threats, hate speech and calls for violence that women journalists and women media workers suffer from, especially since many women journalists face several forms of discrimination and gender-based violence in addition to discrimination based on other characteristics such as race, religion, and gender identity.
Mikhael concludes: “The state of Lebanon is required to take its membership in international forums seriously, abide by international conventions and the Lebanese constitution, and not expose Lebanon to further deterioration in the freedoms guaranteed by the constitution, which Lebanon has always stood out for."