In recent years, the Lebanese media landscape has been facing one of its deepest crisis since the formal end of the civil war more than a quarter of century ago. In a highly polarised regional ecosystem characterised by a proliferation of extremist, simplistic (“with us or against us”) and populist language, local reporters and news editors are exposed on a daily basis to huge pressures from the upper echelons of their respective media institutions. The priority of the newsrooms and of the agenda-setting makers has increasingly become the safeguard of the “security-and-stability” vis-à-vis the “terroristic threats” at the expense of the needs to reaffirm the principles of freedom of press and media independency. Moreover, in comparison with the 2000s, the economic crisis has deepened the precarious conditions of many journalist, photo reporters and cameramen, making them more vulnerable and more easily subjected to blackmail by politicians and local and regional media tycoons.
The economic default and the decay of the credibility of the political leadership opened for Lebanon an unclear transitional period. Despite the anti-sectarianism protests going on since October 2019, the media sector seems doomed to follow the traditional political-religious formula in the future as well. The risk of polarisation is evident: first, many outlets were created ad hoc by politicians or through the contributions of local or foreign supporters, their production will maintain the purpose of serving and promoting the faction whose they are the mouthpiece. Second, the emergence of new and independent outlets will not be sustainable without a constant source of funds and as the protests evolve, it becomes harder to produce and broadcast products that might address the whole audience. Lastly, the traditional political élite remains the main source of funding for the media in Lebanon, able to maintain the power over a sensitive part of the media production and broadcasting.
However, despite the absence of a real and effective protection mechanism for harassed or abused reporters and within a context where there is no clear path toward professionalisation, Lebanese journalists continue to seem to be the most lively and active in the region. Most of them are fluent in at least one European language and many are very familiar with European and North-American media contexts. Furthermore, they enjoy a long tradition of access to foreign media. This is the reason why, against the profound difficulties and constant threats clouding the Lebanese media landscape, signs of hope still remain on the horizon indicating that journalists will continue to report in relatively free conditions compared to the surrounding countries.