Record women candidates in Lebanon vote, but you can't tell from TV

AFP , Wednesday 18 Apr 2018

Lebanon Election
An employee of the electoral monitoring committee watches a televised speech of a Lebanese parliamentary candidate and records the time of his speech at the headquarters of the committee in Beirut on April 11, 2018. (SOURCE: AFP)

A record number of women are running in Lebanon's upcoming parliamentary elections, but they are getting much less television air time than their male counterparts, a media monitor has said.

A total of 86 women are seeking legislative office in Lebanon's May 6 vote, out of 597 candidates.

A study by Maharat, a media monitor now closely following the elections, found television coverage of the elections rarely includes female candidates.

From March 26 until April 8, it monitored talk shows, live programming, and news broadcasts, and one-on-one interviews on local television stations.

Female candidates were featured as guests just 5.89% percent of the time, Maharat said, although they make up almost 15% of the candidates.

The vote will be Lebanon's first in nine years, after the parliament formed in 2009 extended its mandate three times, citing security concerns and an unsatisfactory electoral law.

The 128-member body agreed on a new voting system last year, paving the way for next month's elections.

"The electoral law guarantees fair competition between the male and female candidates and says they could be granted equal opportunity," said Tony Mikhael, who heads Maharat's media monitoring team.

Media organisations, he said, "should support gender equality and give women the same opportunities to put themselves forward as candidates".

The country's media outlets have been providing round-the-clock coverage of Lebanon's elections, but Maharat says that comes with a price.

The organisation has noted that outlets are charging candidates thousands of dollars for air time and even more for interviews.

Many candidates, particularly those coming from outside Lebanon's traditional political elite, say they cannot afford to pay for television coverage.

Of the 86 women running, only 12 hail from Lebanon's conventional political parties.

One faction -- the powerful Iran-backed movement Hezbollah -- refused to put forward any female candidates.

"We in Hezbollah don't have women for this job," said the group's head Hassan Nasrallah in a televised speech in January.

The 86 women candidates represent a more than seven-fold increase in female representation compared with the 2009 vote, when just 12 women ran for office.

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