Lebanon: Condemning verdict to sentence journalist for criticising the Government

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Skyline International condemned the decision of Lebanese court to imprison Lebanese journalist Fida Itani and fine him for publishing posts criticizing the government and its policies on Facebook.

According to Itani, the Lebanese judiciary issued a 22-month prison sentence with fines in total of 75 million liras ($ 50,000) after publications that criticized the government policies, Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil and Lebanese President Michel Aoun.

“He refused to sign a pledge or apologize. The verdict sentenced him with 18 months in prison because of the posts abut foreign minister and MP Gebran Bassil and four months for writing insulting words such as ‘garbage dumb’ about Michel Aoun,” Itani said.
Itani wrote on his Facebook account on June 30, 2017, saying: “Runover child, raids, refugees’ abuse, random killings, hundreds of arrests, forcing people to return to Syria , Michel Aoun garbage dump and armed forces joining the Fascism of Hezbollah and the scorn of the Maronite political leftovers, allegations of terrorists that neutral parties can not verify, all of which are flavoured with Saad – Mahnouk – Safa…you are much valued “.

Skyline International expressed its condemnation of the Lebanese verdict, saying that the unjust judgment comes in the context of restricting the freedom of opinion and expression witnessed in Lebanon today.
The organisation’s researcher, Miqdad Jamil, said that the charges against them including “slander and abuse” against Itani is dangerous, especially as the Lebanese judiciary did not pay attention to what Itani wrote regarding the apparent default and violations by the government.

Jamil expressed concern about the complaint filed by Lebanese Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil against Itani, noting that “this complaint and other complaints constitute a danger and a threat to freedom of the press and media freedoms, and may discourage journalists and other activists from talking about the living conditions in Lebanon”.

“There has been an increase in violations and calls against activists and journalists since the arrival of Michel Aoun to the presidency, which affects the basic rights of citizens,” said Jamil stressing that the Lebanese president should give orders to stop questioning people on the background of their writings and publications.
The researcher referred to the provisions of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international instruments and laws which affirm the right of persons to express their opinion in various forms and means without harassment.

Skyline International called on the Lebanese court to reverse the sentences imposed on Itani and many other citizens who have been sentenced for social media and press investigations and called on security and government agencies to stop summoning them and to allow greater freedom of expression and writing.
In a previous report, Skyline International said that the year 2018 witnessed a significant decline in the freedom of opinion and expression in Lebanon in return for the escalation of repression against the backdrop of the publication of social networking platforms in a politically charged and sectarian atmosphere. The use of justice and law by officials is to prosecute citizens and activists.
The organisation said earlier that the Lebanese law on defamation was loose and needed to define more terms such as “defamation”, “slander” and “mug”, which are used to prevent criticism of officials.

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