Lebanon: Three Arrested for Facebook Postings

Once again this year, the Lebanese government strikes again (the first incident was couple of months ago) by arresting Naim George Hanna, 27, Antoine Youssef Ramya, 29, and Shebel Rajeh Qassab, 27, for posting Facebook statuses against the Lebanese President Michel Suleiman. And along with the new e-transactions draft law dilemma, the Lebanese online community is outraged because of the invasion of their cyberspace. Here are some of their reactions to the arrests:

Lebanese blogger and journalist Hanibaael wrote in his post entitled “So you won't be next!! Move!“(Ar):

لن يستطيع حكم الديناصورات قمع الحريات العامة، ولن تستطيع أية جهة إن كانت سياسيّة أم امنيّة من منع أي كان من التعبير عن رأيه بما يشاء. وكي لا يتحوّل لبنان إلى سجن عربي جديد، ستستمر الاحتجاجات ضد القمع. هذه اولى الخطوات.. وتحركاتنا ستتصاعد طالما الحريات تنتهك!
The dinosaurs’ rule won't be able to suppress public freedom. And no political or security authority can prevent anyone from expressing their opinions as they wish. And the protests against repression will continue to that Lebanon won't turn into a new Arab prison. This is the first step..and our actions will escalate as long as freedoms are being violated.

Lebanese blogger Tony commented on the arrests, saying(Ar):

وأخيراً، بغضّ النظر عن كل النقاشات الفرعية حول هذه المسألة، يجب على كل الناشطين الحقوقيين والسياسيين والمدنيين أن يدركوا أهمية الرفض التام لإخضاع الفضاء الالكتروني لأي نوع من أنواع الرقابة والملاحقة فيما يتعلّق بحرية التعبير. الفضاء الالكتروني هو مساحة خاصة، عالمية وحرّة غير خاضعة لسلطات الدول ولا لأهواء الديناصورات الآتية من القرون الماضية، وهو أيضاً أحد أفعل الأدوات اليوم في بناء الوعي الثقافي والاجتماعي والسياسي للمواطنين، لذلك يجب الحفاظ عليه خالٍ من حكم الديناصورات.
Finally, despite all the sub-debates on this issue, all human rights, political and civil activists must know the importance of refusing to submit cyberspace to any kind of censorship or prosecution when it comes to freedom of speech. The cyberspace is a special, global and free space and not subject to the authorities of countries, or to the dinosaurs coming from past centuries. And it is also one of the best tools these days to build up the cultural, social and political awareness of citizens. Therefore, it should be protected from the dinosaur's rule.

Lebanese blogger finkployd wrote a letter to the President asking him about the other serious issues in the country:

Dear Mr. President,
It is unfortunate, on so many levels, that 3+ people have been arrested for insulting you on Facebook.

And that the Minister of Justice Ibrahim Najjar has defended and encouraged the arrests.

And that the media uproar is at most tepid.

And that you have not intervened to right the wrongs that have been committed.

This at a time when:

- forest fires are raging
- Saida's landfill stands tall
- israeli planes are buzzing
- israeli spies are running amok
- traffic accident fatalities are soaring
[...]

The reactions to this letter were mixed. One of the readers turned the letter to an e-petition for the online community to sign, and another one only said:

You just can't go around insulting people.

Blogger Mustapha, who writes at Beirut Spring, wondered if the letter will reach the President the way the insults did. He said:

[...] what makes you think that the same handlers are going to pass on your letters to the President?

Surprisingly, the administrators of the President's Facebook page posted an announcement about what happened saying that “There's a huge difference between freedom of speech and freedom of defamation against our President“[Ar]:

والاخطر هو التضليل الإعلامي الذي تقوم به محطة تلفزيونية وبعض النواب، عندما يظهرون صور صفحة فيسبوك أخرى، ويدعون أنهم أولاد، بينما أنهم راشدون واحدهم له سابق إجرامي، ويقولون أنهم قاموا فقط بإعطاء نصائح للرئيس. هل هي نصيحة عندما تقول عن أي شخص (وبالأخص إن كان رئيس بلدنا العزيز، هو المعروف بالتسامح ورحب صدره وطيبته، وعدم الرد على مهاجميه) “بتسوى اجري” و “يا واطي” و “يا عنصري” ويا حية” ؟؟؟
And what is more dangerous is the misleading information carried out by a certain TV station and some parliament members, when they show photos of other Facebook groups, pretending they're children while they're adults and one of them has a criminal record. They're saying they only gave the president advices. Is it an advice when you say about someone (especially if he was our beloved country's president, who's known for his tolerance, kindness and not replying back to his attackers) “you're worth nothing”, “you're a very low person”, “you are a racist” and “you are like a snake” ?

The three men have been released for now, and Lebanese blogger Assaad wrote a detailed post[Ar] about the whole incident and considered their release a victory for the civil society:

تمّ إخلاء سبيل الشباب الثلاثة على أن يمثلوا أمام محكمة في الأيام القادمة. إعتبر المجتمع المدني أنّه قد نجح في صد النظام المخابراتي من التوغل في العمق الإلكتروني وكم مفاتيح الكومبيوتر الناطقة بآراء الشباب.
The three young men were released to be brought before the court in the next few days. The civil society considers it a victory against the secret intelligence system, which was trying to go deep into the cyberspace and silence the youth from typing in their opinions

It might be a momentary victory for the Lebanese online community. But will it last? Will Lebanon have more threatened voices?

6 comments

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.