Media and elections
The Lebanese parliamentary election law addresses and regulate media coverage of the election. Article 74 – Paragraph 2 lists the practices that are forbidden or considered unlawful.
During the electoral campaign, the audiovisual media, lists and candidates shall abide by the following obligations:
- To refrain from defaming and slandering lists and candidates.
- To refrain from broadcasting anything that [encourages] a sectarian or racial sentiment or incitement to carry out acts of violence, riot or that that supports terrorism, crime or acts of vandalism.
- To refrain from broadcasting anything that can act as a mean of pressure, intimidation and treason or hinting at incentives or the promising of financial or moral gains.
- To refrain from distorting, withholding, falsifying, deleting or misrepresenting information.
- To refrain from airing or rerunning any material that includes the above-mentioned violations where the media outlet will bear responsibility for violating this law.
Yet, none of the aforementioned terms is clearly defined. Their scope remains elastic and is matter to interpretation.
The wording of Chapter Six of the election law – Media and Electoral Advertising – includes electronic media. But it does not cover campaign-generated videos posted on YouTube, Facebook and other social networks, or even the candidate’s personal website.
In case of violation of the provisions of this chapter on electoral media and advertising by a media outlet, the Supervisory Committee on Elections can, according to Article 81, “refer the violating media outlet to the relevant Court of Publications, that can take what it sees as the best course of action along the following measures:
- Impose a fine on the violating media outlet that ranges between LL50 million [$33,080] and LL 100 million [$66,160].
- Request the violating media outlet to partially halt its works for three days where this pause will include all programs, news bulletins, interviews and news and political talk shows.
- In case of repetition, the media outlets’ work will be fully halted and all of its programs will be stopped for a maximum three days.”
These provisions cannot directly be applied to online media unless the Ministry of Telecommunications conveys to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) the order to block access to the incriminated websites. But, an outright suspension of programs remains technically impossible.
The Court of Publications shall render its judgment within a maximum of 24 hours. The Public Prosecution and the accused party may appeal the decision before the Court of Appeal within 24 hours starting from the judgment declaration date for the Public Prosecution, and from the notification date for the defaulting media.”