Press release: Limited visibility for women in Lebanese elections coverage

Image: The eight women elected to Lebanese parliament in 2022. Photo credit: L’Orient Le Jour

The highest percentage of women representation in Lebanese media outlets during the month leading to the parliamentary elections was as low as 12%. 

Since Lebanese women obtained the right to vote in 1952, only 17 of them have been elected to parliament, despite the increase in the number of candidates in 2022 compared to the previous elections. 

On 15 May 2022, Lebanon held its first parliamentary elections since the 2019 popular uprising and economic collapse, one of the world’s worst in 150 years. It was important for WAN-IFRA Women in News (WIN) to look at gender equality in media content and how women are represented in Lebanese media in the weeks leading to the election. We set out to understand whether Lebanese media are mirroring the lack of representation of women in politics or they are challenging it. 

For a month leading up to Election Day, WIN’s research team monitored five different media outlets that were selected based on specific criteria, including type of media (print, online, radio and TV), political and ideological tendencies, and size of audience. A total of 1,614 news pieces were analysed. 

All written materials were categorised under three main categories: about elections, about candidates, and information about the elections. The WIN Gender Balance Tracker was the main tool of analysis, with quality checks and manual adjustments. The WIN Gender Tracker was created to help media organisations ensure better gender representation; it is a free online tool that tracks the prevalence and share of voice given to women in news articles. The analysis looked at four main indicators: mentions of women, and women as main characters, sources and authors. 

Of critical importance were the findings on gender balance in content. While there were some mentions of women as main characters, referring to women as sources of information or authors of articles was very low, with some platforms scoring zero. Consequently, the role of women as experts or journalists covering the elections were either non-existent or earned limited visibility.

Qualitative highlights:

  • Although mentions of women was the highest metric, it was not connected to having women as sources. The analysed articles spoke more of women than to women. 
  • Due to some editorial policies, a lot of articles were published with no authors’ names, which affected the authorship indicator scores. 
  • LBCI was keen to represent women candidates as sources, with an average of 1 time per candidate. 
  • Voice of Lebanon showed women sources while highlighting people’s reactions towards the elections, and hosted women guests from different fields of expertise, including journalists, writers, actresses and civil society actors. 

The study’s results demonstrated the need to increase the visibility of women journalists inside newsrooms, with a clear mention of their bylines; to grant women candidates more time and space in news pieces; and to consider hosting women experts. Media outlets are thus encouraged to adopt guidelines related to gender balance in election coverage and beyond.

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