Stop the Crackdown on Freedom of Expression in Lebanon
In recent weeks, Lebanese authorities have intensified their harassment of journalists and activists by resorting to problematic defamation laws that curtail their right to free speech.
Since the 17 October 2019 protest movement, Lebanon’s security and military agencies have summoned, interrogated and intimidated dozens of individuals in reaction to social media posts criticizing the authorities. None of these agencies are mandated to investigate issues of free speech.
Our research reviewed 75 cases of individuals summoned, including 20 journalists who were interrogated in relation to charges citing defamation laws. At least two interrogations took place during and despite the state’s lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Under international law, Lebanon must respect and protect the right to freedom of expression. This includes the right to insult public officials provided there is no incitement to violence or discrimination based on race, gender or class. Furthermore, the repeated summons and interrogations of individuals associated with the protest movement carries the risk of creating a chilling effect that would unduly restrict people’s right to freedom of expression.
The Lebanese authorities must immediately stop its ongoing harassment of activists and journalists associated with the protest movement and must respect their right to freedom of expression and assembly.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister has the power to protect free speech in the country. We need you to pressure the Prime Minister to act and end the crackdown on free speech.