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Sunday 25th April 2021
Political Rights and Civil Liberties in Lebanon as per Freedom House Report.

The Freedom House Report is the most widely cited report for tracking global trends in Political Rights and Civil Liberties. It is accessed by Policymakers, academicians, journalists, and activists and it covers almost 195 countries and 15 territories. With an Internet Freedom Score of 52/100 and a Global Freedom Score of 43/100, Lebanon is ranked one among the least free countries. The score of 43 is arrived at by the two scores of 13/40 in Political Rights and 30/60 for Civil Liberties.

It is impertinent for Lebanese citizens to become aware of these scores as the economy continues its tailspin descent. The political elites would clamp down harder on the freedom to not lose their coveted positions. Citizens can use social media to be vigilant and alert international communities of incidents infringing on their rights.

In this piece, I am only focussing on areas where Lebanon has scored the lowest points. I recommend you to read the entire freedom house report here

 

Lebanon scores 13/40 for Political Rights.

Let us deal with the Political Rights (score 13/40) section first. 

Political Rights scores are divided into three sections, and the scores are given on four questions. 

A Electoral Process - 5/12

B Political Pluralism and Participation - 7/16

C Functioning of Government - 1/12

A Electoral Process - 5/12

This section primarily looks if the elections were free and fair and if the electoral laws are robust enough to protect the political rights of its citizens. 

Lebanon had its most recent election in 2018 after a delay of 5 years. The Parliament elected in 2009 after 10 years has repeatedly extended its own term. Though these elections were fairly conducted, vote-buying took place in high numbers. Lebanon does not have an independent electoral commission, but elections were overseen by the Interior Ministry.

As per this paper over half of the Lebanese votes were sold in the 2009 elections. The data in the report also claims that members of all sectarian communities and alliance sold their votes at similar rates. 

B Political Pluralism and Participation - 7/16

This section is about the freedom to form political parties by other groups and does the opposition have the freedom to increase its political power. 

Yes, Citizens do have the freedom to form political groupings, however, most of the political parties are vehicles of established communal leaders. Again, due to the country's power-sharing system, none of the parties act as opposition groups since the power is consolidated among the political elites which hamper intraparty competition

C Functioning of Government - 1/12

This section deal with the effectiveness of elected head of government and national legislative representatives. Here, the score is the lowest as we have seen in the past and even now we have a resigned caretaker government in place. 

The inability of the government to bring to book the corrupt among themselves or manoeuvre Lebanon from the current crisis has been the biggest damage done to its citizens. Even for the August Beirut Port Explosion investigation, we see there are roadblocks to the investigation

 

Lebanon scores 30/60 for Civil Liberties.

The civil liberties score is better than the Political score. Let us explore in brief what each of these scores means and what they tell us. 

D Freedom of Expression and Belief - 11/16

E Associational and Organizational Rights - 8/16

F Rule of Law - 5/16

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights - 6/16

D Freedom of Expression and Belief - 11/16

Lebanese people have shown that they are free to express themselves despite the state's attempt to suppress their dissent.

For Example: 

The government is increasingly using defamation laws against journalist and activist citing "sectarian tensions" which could be farthest from the truth as we have seen the protests on the streets cut across sectarian lines.

“This free speech that we enjoyed for a while is over, and we are now back to the pre-2005 era. Only, instead of the Syrian army, we have the Lebanese state.” Hanin Ghaddar, Lebanese Journalist.

D 1 Are there free and independent media? 2/4

The Lebanese media is open and diverse. However, the media houses depend on political patronage, wealthy individuals and foreign institutions in some cases. 

For Example 

In 2017, Lebanon’s slow-moving 'Publications Court' which hears complaints involving written or broadcast media, found Karam guilty of defamation for similar comments he had made on Facebook. But the following year, a new head judge of the court reversed that ruling and exonerated Karam of all charges. Source - HRW

The recent assassination of Lokman Slim is another botch on Lebanon's democratic credentials. Slim assassination sends a message for citizens not to cross a line. Slim besides his many initiatives had founded a non-profit to promote civil liberties.   

E Associational and Organizational Rights - 8/16

E 3 Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labour organizations? 2/4

The low score here is because of the way we deal with migrant worker's rights, leaving them fewer union rights and large numbers of refugees lack legal status, so it is difficult to find suitable work. 

F Rule of Law

F 1 Is there an independent judiciary? - 0/4 

This should be the biggest concern for democracy. If Lebanon wants to remain free, we need to stop the judiciary from being influenced by politicians and vested interest. 

Lebanon's judiciary is not independent by any means. Citizens have been looking at the judiciary to play an active role after October 17 but it has not been able to fulfil people's hopes and expectations. The inability of the Judiciary to investigate the assassinations and the Beirut Explosion case are some prime examples. 

An independent judiciary is a key demand from the Lebanese Civil Society.    

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G 1 Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? - 1 /4

De-facto sectarian boundaries make it extremely difficult for a citizen to change places of residence. 

G4 Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? - 1 /4

Citizens' communal affiliation determines how much freedom the person enjoys. Economic opportunity depends on the particular group's dominant position. 

Conclusion

The International community is almost short of calling Lebanon a failed state. Our inability to form a government and dig ourselves out of this economic mess are some things we will be held responsible for by future generations. There could be economic winners and losers in countries as finance is very complicated. But the values of democracy and freedom are Universal and easy to comprehend and should be upheld.

Do you have any ideas, how these various low scores could be improved? Drop in a comment or suggestion.

Additional Reading

Read my article on How Does Corruption Affect Human Rights

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