Maharat is a specialized organization endeavouring to defend the freedom of opinion and expression. This is achieved by developing the media sector, advocating for legal reforms, building knowledge and awareness, disseminating information and building capacities of diverse social, media, culture and civic actors. Maharat is member of the international Freedom of Expression Exchange IFEX.
Based on its strategic plan, Maharat is working on four main areas: Advocacy actions for the freedom of expression and the organization of the media sector, Training program, Media Monitoring and Resource production.
1- Freedom of expression Advocacy:
Maharat aims at modifying the legal framework related to media laws in Lebanon through participatory process of advocacy actions and activities leading to the reform of the current laws that are not in line with the international standards of freedom of expression including media laws, organization of journalists' profession and the cancellation of censorship on artistic work. Moreover, Maharat acts as a watchdog to monitor the violations against the freedom of expression and issues statements, alerts and yearly reports accordingly.
a- More than 50 workshops held between 2007 and 2010 with media workers, legal experts and social actors to build consensus on an alternative media law.
b- Registering a media law proposal in November 2010: – Common trunk for all kinds of media, ending duplication of laws. – Cancelling jail penalties. – Canceling prior licenses for political prints. – Transparency provisions for all media institutions. – Freeing electronic media.
c- Drafting an alternative to the audiovisual media law and presenting it to the Parliamentary committee of information and communication in February 2013.
d- Launching an alternative law to cancel prior censorship on artistic work in partnership with "marsad" group in December 2011.
e- More than 25 meetings with producers, artists, activists and journalists and 4 roundtables on the importance of cancelling censorship on artistic work in order to
f- widen the circle of debate and create a momentum on the cancellation of censorship.
g- 5 workshops held in 2013 on the organization of the journalism profession to elaborate a plan protecting them and ensuring their socio economic rights.
h- Advocating for the adoption of the access to information law as part of the national network for the promotion of the right to access information in 2010.
i- Member of the civil campaign for Electoral Reform CCER since 2007 and member of the EU consortium for electoral reform in 2013, working on the reform of the electoral media law.
2- Media Training:
Since its establishment Maharat has conducted training workshops targeting journalists, journalism students and activists in order to build their capacities on areas related to media and human rights, media and conflict, media and development, investigative journalism, inclusive journalism, new digital media.
a- More than 500 trainees between 2006 and 2012 from Beirut and the regions.
b- Partnerships developed with 6 media faculties in Lebanese universities: Jinane in Tripoli, LIU in Bekaa and Saida, Antonine in Mount Lebanon, BAU and LU (UNESCO branch and Fanar branch) in Beirut.
c- Toolkit and documentary on Media and conflicts produced in 2008.
d- Manual on investigative journalism adopted by the media faculty in the Lebanese University and integrated in the curriculum in 2009.
e- Manual on reformist journalism adopted by the media faculty in the Lebanese University and integrated in the curriculum in 2012.
f- Providing internship opportunities for journalism students since 2012 to improve their journalism practical skills from a Human Rights perspective.
3- Media Monitoring:
Maharat adopts a media monitoring methodology to assess media performance based on specific themes or throughout a specific period of time. The monitoring aims to deeply analyze the media content concerning the messages and the language. Maharat bases in its training program on the results and case studies highlighted in its media monitoring.
a- Monitoring electoral media during the parliamentary elections in 2009 and issuing a study based on the monitoring results.
b- Study on the media coverage of foreign labors issues.
c- Study on the coverage of women issues.
d- Study monitoring the public broadcast performance.
e- Study monitoring hate speech in political talk shows.
f- Study on citizen assessment of media, yearly conducted by Maharat since 2011 in collaboration with IREX.
Produce useful and needed resources in Arabic that support Maharat’s Mission, and benefit the media community, researchers, academicians, students, human rights activists and civil society organizations at large.
a- Maharat annual report on freedom of expression in Lebanon in collaboration with UNESCO.
b- A publication of Maharat and UNESCO about Lebanese press martyrs since 1906 to 2006, "one hundred years in red ink".
c- Two training books on investigative journalism and reformist journalism as a tool facing corruption.
d- A study on Lebanese media and the problematic of making a public opinion in a divided community.
e- A study related to the media coverage of the May 2008 clashes.
f- A book about journalism ethics, principles and facts, presenting a study on how Lebanese journalists deal with these ethics in their outlets.
g- A manual on the right of access to information to guide journalists in their investigative reporting.
h- A manual on new media and advocacy elaborated in 2011.
i- Towards a code of ethics in Lebanon issued in 2013 after series of interviews with media representatives in collaboration with UNESCO.
About Maharat news:
Based on its four areas of work, Maharat has launched a news platform, Maharat-news, that serves to advocate for freedom of expression, provide internship opportunities for journalism students through the production and dissemination of media material related to public policies, human rights and media monitoring, presented in an attractive and simplified way like illustrations and infographics.
Maharat role in oil and gas:
Although Lebanese are excited to discover their offshore oil and gas reserves, they fear that these national funds would higher the corruption and will not affect their lives and the economic growth of their country. Corruption, poor implementation of the regulations, inequitable distribution of oil revenues, environmental risks are threats that can only be faced by ensuring transparency and accountability. This will only happen if Lebanese citizens are active participants in the process, remain informed, and lobby for their rights. Thus the Lebanese media has a crucial role to inform citizens and get them involved in the process. It is essential to make extraction contracts public, how much oil will be produced, how much money will it generate and how it will be spent.
Therefore, Maharat can play a role in raising the awareness of the journalists and activists on the importance of following up the process and informing the public, spreading the message and monitor the media in the coming period. Maharat will base on its previous experience in gathering journalists and activists, building consensus among them, facilitating debates and setting guidelines for investigative journalism and access to information.
This can be through training workshops for journalists to be more familiar with the terminologies, the procedures, the transparency obligations, other models of countries that succeeded like Norway and Malaysia or failed in oil and gas extraction and benefits exploitation like Angola and Nigeria where oil has increased the corruption of the political class and turned into a resources curse. Journalists will be introduced to the conditions that must accompany the extraction and the obligations of transparency regarding both the extracting companies and the exploiting government.
For this purpose, Maharat can produce the needed resources to guide the journalists and ensure the role of media as a watchdog. These resources can be shared with the media faculties within Maharat's partnerships to be used to build the capacities of the next generation of journalists.
In addition, Maharat will monitor the media in order to assess how much time media is allocating to the oil and gas issues and the quality of time allocated and the messages diffused. Maharat will make use of Maharat news platform and traditional media to share the monitoring results with them in order to sensitize them to cover oil and gas issues professionally.