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Samir Kassir Foundation
Reporters without borders

Society

Around 3.5 million Lebanese as well as an additional 2 million refugees and immigrants, mostly coming from neighboring Syria and Palestine, are living in the country. Representing about 4% of the size of Egypt (10,452 square kilometers), Lebanon counts more than 18 different denominations under both Christian and Muslim umbrellas, and other minority religious affiliations. Although Arabic is Lebanon’s official language, French is a recognized language, and English is widely spoken among millennials and adults in multiple parts of the country. With rich linguistic diversity, sectarian fragility, and political unrest, access to the media is engulfed in a reality whereby it is not equally available to all factions of Lebanese society, and even at times not accessible to many.

According to the UN Human Development Index, Lebanon’s adult literacy rate was estimated at 93.9% in the latest available figures from 2014. However, there is an alarming discrepancy between urban and rural regions. Adult literacy is highest in Beirut, where only 6.1% of the population cannot read by adulthood. In more rural regions such as the Bekaa (east of the country), this percentage is estimated at almost 17%.

Although Lebanon currently seems more liberal when it comes to freedom of the press and media compared to most other countries in the MENA region, it is not necessarily a result of laws or societal realities. Media in Lebanon is still governed by outdated laws deeply rooted in the sectarian and political divides. In fact, the nature of Lebanese media mirrors the nature of the society it covers – often lacking transparency, independence, reliability or non-bias.

It is worth mentioning that the nature of Lebanese media, as well as its political angles, do not only affect Lebanese inside Lebanon, and other communities within its borders. It also shapes the general perception of the vast Lebanese diaspora – estimated between 4 to 13 million – among their host societies and potential Lebanese returnees.

In 2015, 95% of Lebanese youth already had access to the Internet through their mobiles, which revolutionized information. In the past decade, digital media literacy has made a significant leap in Lebanon, from being practically unheard of to being promoted by civil society, academics and universities, even finding its way into some schools as an extracurricular activity.

With the advent of the Internet also came user-generated content with a wave of bloggers, citizen journalists, and media literate people who were seeking change in Lebanese media and reporting in general.

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