Freedom of expression, both oral and written, are recognised under Article 13 of the Lebanese Constitution.
Lebanon became part of the United Nations Convention against Corruption on 16 October 2008. Article 2 of the Lebanese Code of Civil Procedure provides that:
“In the event of conflict between the provisions of international treaties and those of ordinary law, the former shall take precedence over the latter1.”
In 2013 Lebanon was ranked 127 out of 177 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index2.
At present no law exists in Lebanon guaranteeing access to information or protection for whistleblowers.
In recent years a whistleblower protection bill and an access to information bill have been submitted to the Lebanese parliament, however (at the time of writing) both bills are yet to be passed.
2. Current legal environment
Presently, in Lebanon every individual has the right to obtain information on property registration after paying the retrieving and copying fees in accordance with the Law on Land Registry. Telecommunications and electricity utilities laws afford a right to every individual to access all available documents and data, provided commercial secrets and competition are not harmed.
Annual reports must be published for public agencies, including the Central Inspection Council, Civil Service Council, Accountability bureau, Lebanon’s Central Bank and the Office of the Ombudsman.
The National Archive Centre provides citizens with access to archived documents of public agencies.
In line with the amended penal code penalties apply for the publication of any document of criminal investigation prior to its examination in public hearing, publication of court briefs, secret trials, trials in family or marital affairs or any other information banned by the Court.
Public employees, under Article 15 of the Public Service Law, are prohibited from making public statements or publishing articles without their supervisor’s written approval, and also from disseminating official information during employment, and post-employment, unless written authorisation has been provided by the ministry. This law acts as a deterrent for whistleblowers that fear accusations from their supervisors.
Cabinet deliberations, sessions, minutes, deliberations, together with voting of parliamentary committees and sessions of municipal council are each deemed secret under Articles 9, 34 and 35 of Bylaw 73.
3. Proposed legislation
a. Draft law on whistleblower protection
A draft law for whistleblower protection was submitted to the Lebanese parliament on 24 June 2010 by the National Network for the Right of Access to Information in Lebanon. Drafted by a group of Lebanese lawyers with assistance from the American Bar Association, the proposed legislation:
- Applies to both the public and private spheres;
- Provides protections for the employment and personal safety of whistleblowers, and the safety of their family members, including a provision for compensation for violations;
- Incorporates a mechanism for reparation to the whistleblower if their disclosure leads to the recovery of public funds.
This Bill has yet to be passed.
b. Draft law on access to information
Theoretically, the Lebanese Constitution guarantees the right of access to information, however, no law exists to ensure this right or to set out processes for doing so.
The National Network for the Right of Access to Information submitted draft legislation to the Lebanese parliament on 9 April 2009. The proposed legislation:
- Attempts to improve transparency and combat corruption;
- Aims to bolster trust between the citizen and the state;
- Suggests that the administration—public entities, and also a group of private entities that participate in the provision of private service or in the management of public property or that are controlled by public entities’—be required to provide information to ‘any person.’
- A Lebanese person, a foreigner, or a legal entity would qualify as ‘any person’;
- Requests do not need to be justified by the person. The person need only make a written request to the relevant administration. The administration is given 15 days to respond to the request (through a designated clerk), or such extended time as necessary for the complexity of the request;
- Access to information is limited in the following instances:
- Secrets of national defence; or
- Information which infringes the right of privacy of individuals;
Last modified: May 24 2014.