In the last decade, some independent associations were created in Lebanon to fill the vacuum left by the absence of effective trade associations and accountability institutions.
The Samir Kassir Foundation (named after the Lebanese journalist and historian killed in Beirut in 2005) in November 2007 created its ‘armed wing’ SKeyes not only to support the new generation of reporters but also to monitor violations against press freedom in Lebanon and the Arab world. Samir Kassir Eyes is based in Beirut and has regional correspondents – some of them undercover – in Jordan, Syria, the Palestinian Occupied Territories and Israel. Its aims are to defend freedom in academic and scientific research, to act within the framework of civil society forces for defending freedoms while respecting the law and to build a media and cultural lobby at Arab and international levels.
The SKeyes centre was established through a grant from the Foundation for the Future, an international organisation based in Amman (Jordan), whose work is dedicated to freedom of expression. SKeyes has mainly financial support from the European Union. The SKeyes centre periodically organises workshops, exhibitions and conferences on specific issues, prepares regular reports and protest petitions by journalists and intellectuals, participates in organising awareness campaigns, offers its legal staff to help journalists and intellectuals subjected to prosecution, lawsuits and prison, and liaises with local and international committees that defend journalism, culture and human rights.
One of the most active independent associations is the Maharat Foundation, a group of journalists who have worked together and personally experienced the obstacles to free journalism in Lebanon. Their aims are among other things to develop media skills and limit the effect of self- and government-imposed censorship on media.
In 1993 another “group of young journalists”, trained in the media departments of the Beirut universities, formed the Club de la Presse (Nadi as-Sahafa), a non-for-profit organisation with the ambition to become a “free journalistic pulpit”. In 2006 thanks to several private donations from Lebanese and Arab businessmen, the Club de la Presse opened its prestigious headquarters in one of the newly restored buildings in central Beirut, where it regularly organises workshops, press conferences, book presentations and training courses with the declared aim of “helping young journalists find employment and overcome the difficulties of the Lebanese media system”. In recent years the Club de la Presse has gradually lost its role of reference point for local and foreign journalists.