Lebanon | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


Status change explanation: Lebanon moved from Not Free to Partly Free as the private media market became increasingly diverse, particularly the broadcast media, and the press began to issue stronger criticisms of the government toward the end of 2004.

The constitution provides for freedom of the press, and Lebanon enjoys a diversity of media outlets, unlike most other countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Syria's dominance of Lebanese politics continued to inhibit press freedom, and the Lebanese government continued to take steps to limit journalists, though with less impact than before, as the diversity of media outlets has made it increasingly difficult to fully restrict the press. A 1991 treaty between Syria and Lebanon includes an explicit pledge by Lebanon to ban all political and media activity that might harm Syria, and strict defamation and security laws prohibit criticism of top leaders. Articles 473 and 474 of Lebanon's penal code make public blasphemy and publicly insulting a religion a crime punishable by a maximum of one year in jail.

Despite these restrictions, Lebanon features dozens of newspapers and hundreds of periodicals, many of which, like the independent daily Al-Nahar, publish regular criticism of the government. Such criticism increased in late 2004 after the resignation of Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri. Government officials put direct and indirect pressure on both print and broadcast media outlets to obtain favorable coverage, and journalists are subject to occasional harassment. In July, the publication court dropped a 2002 charge of disturbing national security and defaming the president leveled against Ibrahim Awad, the Beirut bureau chief of the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat. The newspaper had published an article on an assassination attempt on President Emile Lahoud in 2001. The Surete Generale (SG), part of the state security apparatus in the Ministry of the Interior, is authorized to censor all foreign magazines, books, and films before they are distributed in Lebanon. In March, the SG censored a video clip of a song by popular singer Najwa Karam, saying the clip had made reference to recent clashes between student protesters and government security services.

A degree of diversity and economic freedom exists in Lebanon's media. All of Lebanon's national daily newspapers are privately owned, many by political interests. Most television and radio stations are also privately owned, including six independent television stations and nearly three dozen independent radio stations. Access to regional and international satellite television channels has grown substantially over the last decade. Lebanon is the headquarters for two influential satellite television channels with regional reach, Al-Manar, run by Hizbollah, and the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation. Internet access is broadly available and not restricted.