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. Moreover, SKeyes cooperates with Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and launched the Media Ownership Monitor in Lebanon, with the aim of providing more transparency on the activities and the interests on the stakeholders owning and directing the media. The tool has a comprehensive scope and allows to retrieve many useful information about the media sector and contextualize better the different actors within the media landscape. SKeyes runs another project called “Press and Cultural Violations in the Levant”, producing a monthly report in which they list and contextualise the violations occurred in the region. Recently, during the anti-government protests and the Covid-19 pandemics, they released several reports both on abuses on journalists and media operators and guidelines on how safely continue the journalistic activities and on how to contrast the misinformation on the topic.
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. The Maharat Foundation as well attempts to advocate for freedom of expression rights and focused lately on the monitoring of the uprisings, denouncing the cases of violation, brutality and advocating for more transparency.
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. It ceased to be a supporting entity for journalists and limited its activities mostly to the formal hosting of press conferences.