Harassment against journalists continues

Harassment against journalists continues
Protests demanding justice for Beirut port explosion have been ongoing (REUTERS/Aziz Taher via Gallo Images).

Peaceful Assembly

As documented by Civil Society Knowledge Center during March 2022, 93 collective actions took place in Lebanon: 57 sit-ins and demonstrations, 19 roadblocks, 13 strikes, 11 marches, five building blockades and occupation, and one online campaign. Of these, four collective actions were faced with repression:

  • On 15th March 2022, security forces disrupted a protest denouncing power cuts by preventing protesters from entering the LibanPost office in Halba. The following day, on 16 March 2022 , there was an altercation between the same protesters and security force members outside Halba Saraya.
  • On 16th March 2022, families of firemen who died in the Beirut blast protested outside Justice Minister Henri Khoury's home and spray-painted messages on the walls to denounce his inaction in the Beirut blast probe. State security summoned two of the protesters, William Noun and Peter Bou Saab. 
  • On 30th March 2022, army and riot police assaulted Lebanese university professors during a sit-in at the Presidential Palace junction in Baabda which demanded that the Cabinet take measures to approve the dossier of full-time positions.

Expression

On International Women’s Day, 8th March 2022, 49 members of the Media Freedom Coalition signed a joint statement calling attention to the safety of women journalists and media workers. The only member country of the coalition that did not sign the statement was Lebanon.

“Women journalists are disproportionately targeted by harassment, threats, sexist hate speech, trolling and violence. Many women journalists face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and gender-based violence because of other characteristics, including race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”

During the reporting period the following incidents against journalists were documented:

  • On 11th March 2022, the Presidency of the Republic filed a claim against journalist Mohamad Nimer, after he wrote an article on how the Free Patriotic Movement funded its electoral campaign. He was summoned to appear before the Criminal Investigation Bureau. The Alternative Press Syndicate condemned the regular summoning of journalists and activists and called for the abolition of the legal articles that violate freedom of speech, such as Article 384 of the Penal Code which penalises criticism of the head of state with imprisonment for six months to two years. This case is an example of how the penal code is often used to limit freedom of speech in Lebanon, even if this freedom is guaranteed in the constitution.
  • Judge Ghana Aoun filed a complaint against journalist Marcel Ghanem after he criticised her during the television programme Sar el Wa2et for her recent investigations and prosecutions targeting the banking sector. A member of the human rights organisation Samir Kassir condemned his complaint as a violation of freedom of speech.
  • During April 2022, freelance journalist Nada Homsi was stopped and detained at the Beirut airport by officers from the Lebanese General Security Directorate and threatened with deportation. Homsi, who was returning from the US, stated that she had no idea why officers were trying to ban her from Lebanon. After being detained for some time, she was allowed to enter the country. Homsi was previously detained in November 2021 and spent 23 days in detention for “security reasons”. It was later reported that her arrest at the time was due to Homsi having entered and stayed in occupied Palestinian territories. The Coalition for Women in Journalism stated:
“We are deeply concerned over the circumstances surrounding Nada’s detentions, twice in five months and the attempts to distort her image. We call for an independent and transparent inquiry into the matter.”