Media Role in Establishing the Good Governance - Foundation Office Lebanon
The discussion rolled, in the seminar, which was opened by Pr. Pascal Monin and moderated by Dr. Charbel Maroun, with the Dean of the Faculty of Business Administration at Saint Joseph University: Pr. Fouad Zmokhol, Editor-in-Chief of “MTV News”: Mr. Walid Abboud, Editor-in-Chief of Al-Joumhouria newspaper: Mr. George Solaj, Executive Director of “Maharat” Foundation: Ms. Rola Mikhael, the director of “Fe-Male” institution and Editor-in-Chief of “Partner But”: Mrs. Hayat Merchad, and also attended by the Director of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation Office Michael Bauer and the Foundation's Project Manager, Mr. Hamad Elias.
The beginning consisted of a welcoming speech by Professor Monin, who stressed that “the media is the fourth authority, and for several researchers it is the “X” authority to indicate its great and effective influence in many matters in public life.”
He added: “There is no need for media without freedom. Without it, one voice prevails, even if there are many means, and society lacks areas for healthy debate, leading to the death of democracy. It is no coincidence that the most democratic societies are those with free and independent media.”
Monin continued: “It is stable that the effectiveness of the media is linked to its honesty and professionalism. Therefore, it is necessary to expedite the review of the various media laws and introduce the necessary amendments to allow the provision of a legal environment that incubates media work. The concepts of media ethics must be promoted to fortify and protect the media professions.”
For his part, Bauer welcomed the attendees, stressing in his speech the importance of the role of the media in building an effective state of law, and shedding light on corruption, nepotism and everything that hinders the development of the state in general.
He also spoke about the Good Governance Forum, which began in 2020 in cooperation with Saint Joseph University and addressed many important topics to develop governance in Lebanon.
The interventions began with Zmokhol , who pointed out that “the main role of the media is to be the mediator, as its role is more than a fourth authority, as it is the one who delivers the voice to everyone, and police regimes always work to seize the media by silencing it and buying the voices and pens of media professionals, which hinders its work, and this is unfortunately what happens in Lebanon.”
He considered that “the role of the media in good governance is first, awareness and promotion, second, transparent participation, third, respect for human rights, fourth, the rules of law, and the fifth point is investigation and exclusion, and an example of this is that the first investigation into the Beirut port explosion began in the media, and the sixth point is the effective role in fighting corruption in a transparent manner, and the last point is access to information.”
In turn, Solaj considered that the media in Lebanon is not like any model in the world, as media freedom exists, but not all media are free, adding: “There are media outlets that are somewhat independent and therefore exercise freedom according to their capabilities, while the second category of media is affiliated with parties and there are financial and economic references that have media outlets affiliated with them, and the third category is websites that are created quickly, everyone who has not found a job, decides to publish a site and positioning himself as editor-in-chief; at a time when we needed many years to get to where we are, and this is called media piracy, at a time when intellectual protection is absent.”
Solaj considered that “the influence of the media in the process of building good governance is impossible in a country like Lebanon according to the existing structure,” stressing that “the work of the media today is very difficult in light of the economic crisis, the absence of funding and the disappearance of the return from advertising,” pointing to the decline in the percentage of advertising in the media to 90%, summarizing it as an “existential battle.”
Abboud began his intervention by rejecting “demonizing parties every time we say that parties control the media,” stressing that they have the right to express their opinion in the way they find appropriate.
“On the issue of funding, this is not new, hence there must be censorship of all media outlets, not just media outlets that belong to parties,” he said.
Abboud stressed that “freedom in Lebanon is available, but the problem is in two other places, democracy is absent with the absence of rotation of power, and change is absent even among people who feel desperate about this situation.”
He continued: “There is no follow-up to the news issued by the media, as no one moves despite the revelation of scandals through the media, not from the people or even from the judiciary.”
Abboud stressed that the public media, such as Lebanon TV, the national radio and the national agency, should play their natural role, while he considered that diversity in the media is a source of richness and not a source of questioning.
In her intervention, Mikhael considered that the Lebanese media system is similar to the existing political system, pointing out that despite all the media investigative work and the detection of corruption files, nothing changes because of the existing system.
She added: “There is no doubt that the work of the media in such a political system in the absence of the required transparency is a posed problem, and the question that arises is the ability of the media to get out of its reality and its obligations and its dependence on funding sides?”
She pointed out that “digital media has become today an alternative media to the traditional, which helped the media scene to develop, especially with the large margin of freedom enjoyed by digital media, such as the “Daraj” website recently with the publication of investigations on the “Badura Papers” scandal.
On the role of media and good governance, Mikhael said: “There is diversity in the Lebanese media and there must be a clear management of this diversity, which contributes to promoting it and showing the positivity of diversity in Lebanese society.”
She spoke about a draft law to regulate digital media, “which raises our fear, as we must preserve the role of alternative media or digital media because of the importance of its role, and the work of the state and the competent authorities are protection and not repression.”
“Unfortunately, there is still no accountability or evaluation of the role of the media in good governance in Lebanon, but it is important to discuss where the media stand today in terms of everything that is happening in society? It is necessary to put the media before their responsibilities and the issues they address.”
She continued: “There is a breach in the media landscape today, as it has kept pace with various issues, during, before and after the revolution, but the problem is that the culture of accountability towards the media is absent among the viewer, who remains a recipient and not an accountant.”