Lebanon: Safe Haven for Journalists (Sometimes)

With the flood of stories coming out of Syria about killed, injured and evacuated journalists, people have asked me about the dangers of reporting in Lebanon (where I’m currently teaching journalism).  The answer lies partly in where the journalists are being evacuated: here to Beirut for safety.

Lebanon has one of the freest news media environments in the Middle East and last year was ranked 93 out of 179 countries in terms of press freedom by the press freedom group, Reporters without Borders (RSF) (only two countries in the region  rank higher: Israel at 93 and Kuwait at 78) .

That said, there remain problems.

Last year, protesters attacked an Al Jazeera van in the northern town of Tripoli, setting it on fire with a technician inside, though no one was harmed, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.  Meanwhile,  RSF reported that Lebanon’s New TV was also attacked covering protests in Beirut about the same political controversy, while Lebanese TV station NBN’s correspondent was “roughed up” and National Information Agency’s photographer was also attacked.

Authorities have been known to detain and question journalists.

CPJ also notes that the investigation into the assassination of two journalists in 2005, Al Nahar newspaper’s Samir Kassir, a columnist, and its managing director,  Gebran Tueni, has never uncovered their killers. Whoever car bombed May Chidiac, a Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. talk show host that year also was never caught.

In addition to international watchdogs, Lebanon benefits from the locally based SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom named in honor of Kassir who also has a large life-like statue and square named after him in downtown Beirut.  An honor we don’t see much of in the US for our reporters.

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