Activists call for sit-in to protest crackdown on freedom of speech

The latest criminal proceeding came against activist Elie Khoury after the information branch of the Internal Security Forces opened an investigation into his online activity.
by Georgi Azar

23 July 2018 | 14:49

Source: by Annahar

  • by Georgi Azar
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 23 July 2018 | 14:49

"Yes to freedom of expression," read one of the banners held at a protest outside the Justice Palace in Baabda on Thursday, December 21 (Annahar Photo)

BEIRUT: A group of online activists have called for a peaceful sit-in at the Samir Kassir Square in Downtown Beirut on Tuesday, July 24 to protest the recent wave of dissident arrests. 

The latest criminal proceeding came against activist Elie Khoury after the Information Branch of the Internal Security Forces opened an investigation into his online activity. 

Khoury had posted a message directed to President Michel Aoun on his Facebook page, criticizing the current state of affairs in Lebanon while highlighting that “reforms must come from above first.”

The post alludes to the idea that Lebanese are not receiving the proper services for the price they incur on a bevy of issues, including “water, electricity, and telecommunication.” 

“Under your presidency, Lebanese can’t afford to put their kids in school, under your presidency, Lebanese can’t afford to buy a house, under your presidency, Lebanese spend their salary on gas because of traffic,” the rant goes on. 

The organizers launched a campaign labelled “against repression” because "Lebanon is facing an unprecedented decline in freedom of expression in all forms.”

The statement calls on concerned citizens to gather at 7:00 p.m. in defense of “our freedoms granted to us by the constitution.”

A series of court cases and judicial investigations in recent months against Lebanese media figures rocked the country’s reputation as a safe haven for freedom of expression. 

Popular TV host Marcel Ghanem faced a lawsuit of defamation because of remarks made by a guest on his previous show Kalam Ennas, while Lebanese-American Journalist Hanin Ghaddar was sentenced in absentia to six months in prison by a military tribunal. The sentence was later dropped and her case was referred to the court of publications. 

Ghaddar is an outspoken critic of Iranian-backed Hezbollah who made comments in 2014 suggesting that the Lebanese army distinguishes between "Sunni and Shia terror and tolerates Hezbollah", triggering an outcry from certain Lebanese publications.

Although Lebanon is considered one of the freest environments in the region, some laws have put a limit on free speech.

Libel or defaming foreign leaders and public officials have been outlawed, and it is a criminal offense to insult the president and the flag, among other national symbols, while other laws ban speech that is deemed insulting to religion.   

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