Amnesty International: The Lebanese authorities must immediately halt all prosecutions of journalists, human rights defenders, activists, and others who are critical of state officials, Amnesty International today, as the organization launches #MyOpinionIsNotaCrime, a new campaign that calls on the Lebanese Parliament to abolish all laws that criminalize insult and defamation.
The new campaign comes amid a spate of prosecutions of those critical of political, security, judicial and religious figures in the country, with thousands targeted by criminal investigations since 2015. In a recent shocking development, a court in July sentenced journalist Dima Sadek to one year in prison and fined her LBP 110 million (equivalent to around USD 1,200 at market rate) on criminal defamation and incitement charges after she criticized members of a political party on Twitter.
“Dima Sadek’s case is a travesty, and an illustration of how archaic criminal laws are being weaponized to punish or silence dissent. Her prison sentence sends a chilling message to less high-profile journalists in the country and will deter people from speaking out against the powerful – whether state officials, or political party leaders or religious figures – especially at a time when impunity is rampant,” said Aya Majzoub, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“Lebanon’s insult and defamation laws are designed to protect those in power from all forms of criticism. At a time when Lebanese citizens should be freely discussing what they expect from their leaders given the acute suffering due to the economic crisis, high-ranking officials are targeting journalists, human rights defenders, activists and others who are peacefully expressing their opinions and working to expose allegations of corruption.”