Strengthening watchdog journalism
Intense politicization is the primary obstacle to improving professionalism standards in the Lebanese media industry. It mainly affects objectivity, the very conception of it by Lebanese journalists and their actual commitment to it. One such indicator is the fact that very few news outlets distinguish the difference between news and editorial desks. Fact-checking is another point of contention which causes imbalances in the ethics guiding this line of practice. Though very few subjects are off limits; “physical access to news events can be restricted according to the political leaning of a particular media outlet.” A more blatant breach of professionalism is bribery or what journalists refer to as ‘gifts’: to give journalists reason lean towards one point of view, only cover news of convenience, and portray one side in a positive light.
The Lebanese media is a leading market in terms of utilizing the most advanced technical facilities for producing and distributing news. However, such exposure and experience is only accessible to those who are employed by the politically-dependent enterprises themselves. This generally weakens the ability of media to rely on available technology to reach wider audiences more effectively and better influence public affairs away from the politically-charged environment. Interestingly, Lebanon scores lowest on indicators of supporting media institutions in the MSI with a 1.94 ‘unsustainable mixed system’ level. Several journalism training programmes exist such as a state-run Lebanese University four-year journalism programme. However, it is generally acknowledged that “journalism training is still too focused on academic rather than practical skills, making it hard for journalism students to find work.” Also, very few programmes provide access to high-end equipment, new technology, and techniques in reporting, production, and delivery of news. Most importantly, it is the fresh graduates and the new entries to the media market that are given the least amount of support. In a fast paced industry, internships leave youths with little access to technology, expertise, and the opportunity to both experience and contribute to media production in Lebanon.
This project will attempt to address these challenges and contribute to promoting good governance and press freedom by building capacities in the field of investigative journalism. Twelve young print and online media professionals will acquire in-depth skills and knowledge in investigative journalism, after participating in a custom-designed 3-month training workshop in Lebanon.