Lebanon witnessed an alarming drop in the “world press freedom rating” under the rule of former President Michel Aoun, whose term ended on Monday.
His six-year term witnessed more 801 violations against media and cultural freedoms, revealed a report by the SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom at the Samir Kassir Foundation
It said Lebanon’s ranking approached the level of tyrannical and police states in wake of the escalation in repressive practices and violations against freedom of expression.
The 20th World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Lebanon ranked 98 in 2016 but fell 32 places to 130 out of 180 countries in 2022.
The violations ranged from assassinations, armed attacks against media properties, journalists and activists by official and unofficial parties, the summoning and interrogation of journalists and activists, threats and bullying, the filing of lawsuits, official and unofficial censorship of cultural works and activities, blocking of e-content, the jailing of journalists, and the issuing of verdicts by non-competent courts, such as the military court.
The practices also included the excessive use of force and unjustified violence against demonstrators, photographers, journalists and correspondents.
The report further underlined the major violations committed against journalists, activists and even citizens who were summoned, detained and questioned over tweets or posts on social media and other online platforms on charges of insulting the president.
It did not mention violations committed by Aoun’s supporters, such as “breaking into media headquarters, bullying and disinformation campaigns, or physical assault on reporters and photographers, all of which are practices carried out by most of the parties in the ruling system in Lebanon,” the center revealed.
The report stressed that “this systematic repressive approach, which was adopted by the political authority in cooperation with the security services and public prosecutions, was aimed at silencing all who criticize the politicians in the country.”