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Stockholm: Skyline International condemns the Lebanon government’s previous decision in regards to imposing fees on the use of WhatsApp and other free social media applications. 

The organization considers this a step towards restricting freedoms and violating the privacy of the citizens.

The Lebanese cabinet agreed to impose a tax of 20 cents on the first daily call using WhatsApp, which is free of charge, and on other Internet calling applications.

Censorship and Violation of Privacy And Freedoms in Lebanon

Although the Lebanese government canceled the previous decision after a wave of mass protests in Lebanon, yet it demonstrates the way the Lebanese government manages such files; through a privacy violation that forces the authorities to monitor users’ communications to see if they have contacted via social media.

If the law was passed, the Lebanese government could have monitored calls by activists and journalists over Internet applications, which could affect their privacy and freedom.

Miqdad Jamil, a legal researcher at Skyline International, says that privacy is an inherent human right of human rights laws. It is fundamental to the preservation of human dignity, as enshrined in Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Article 12, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and other international human rights laws. 

Jamil stresses that the communications control detracts from the right to privacy, and targets other important rights, this may not be justified in any case.

He also points out that the decision of the Lebanese government violates free social networking applications such as WhatsApp and Viber. Such applications are provided to all users without restriction or fees.

Mass demonstrations

Protests spread across Lebanon on Thursday against the imposition of taxed on some social media applications. The protest continued until Friday, turning into a mass public protest against governmental taxes.

Lebanese security forces tried to suppress the freedom of protesters who expressed their rejection of these taxes. Gunfire was heard at the protest site, in addition to tear gas canisters to disperse the protesters. 

Following the protests, Lebanese Minister of Communications Mohamed Shoquir announced a halt to the taxation of WhastApp, at the request of Prime Minister Saad Hariri. However, the demonstrations continued in opposition to several taxes and political conditions in Lebanon.

Not to restrict freedoms

Skyline International calls on the Lebanese authorities to reverse any decisions that may affect people’s freedoms of expression, violate their privacy, and comply with relevant human rights laws.

The organization also calls on the authorities in Lebanon to respect the right of demonstrators to express their views, as affirmed by the Lebanese Constitution and international laws, and to stop the repression of demonstrators.

Skyline International stresses the importance of granting the Lebanese citizens a wide range of freedoms, without restriction or censorship. This will contribute to the creation of a better reality for citizens, in light of the political and economic conditions in Lebanon.