Lebanon faces a major problem with government transparency and accountablity. Citizens have little access to government budgets and procedures such as contracts and projects taking place within the context of public works and utilities. These services are highly problematic: power production barely meets half demand and is frequently cut, water is frequently cut, sewage pours into the sea and waterways untreated, landfills are pilling up, internet is among the slowest in the world in Lebanon. These are some examples. Citizens are given little access to these processes or the decision-makers that make them happen.
A major gap here is the lack of reporting as there are very few investigative journalism efforts within Lebanon. These efforts include a monthly television show and a few sporadic attempts in print media that often lack depth and place a priority on scandal value over detailed research. Thus the scarcity of serious reporting provides a huge opportunity of topics to investigate in a country with so many broken services,so little publicly accessible data. The site will also be offering a unique interactive platform that moves beyond actual reporting to facilitate reader engagement with officials and public sector failures.
Beirut Report not only does journalism and specialized beat reporting but also encourages readers to participate in the journalistic process by engaging with newsmakers through push button accountability tools which can leverage public pressure on policy. Beirut Report offers specialized and contextualized reporting that helps demystify public sector problems. The reporting is complimented by an interactive platform that facilitates engagement between readers and newsmakers encouraging transparency, accountability and citizenship.
An online interactive platform will empower readers to engage in public sector problems and broken services through the use of push-button accountability tools that will compliment our investigative reporting. At the end of a news story, a box will highlight missing government data or reporters’ questions that officials could or would not answer.
Readers will then be offered a suite of easy-to-use tools to participate in the accountability process by demanding answers from officials and newsmakers. These include suggested, ready-to-use tweets, Facebook posts and hashtags that will tag specific decision makers who have significant influence over the problems in question. For those policymakers not on social media, readers will also have access to emails and phone numbers to send suggested emails or text messages to leaders. Visualization and mapping technologies will also be deployed to inform and encourage interactions between readers and newsmakers. Hashtags and postings will help stimulate public debate and involvement in specific sector failures, encouraging an informed exchange of ideas as an alternative to the polemical and superficial exchanges often seen in mainstream media.