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Prosecuted Because of Facebook…A Lost Cause - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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I was unable to view the comments posted on the Facebook social networking website by three young men in which they made negative remarks about Lebanese President Michel Suleiman. The three young men have been arrested on charges of slandering and defaming the character of President Suleiman, and their arrest took place amidst a campaign to justify this in which politicians, MPs, and even the Minister of Justice himself was involved. They said that the youths had confused political and media freedoms with the crimes of libel and slander.

I found no traces of the alleged “crime” that was carried out by these three young men, who posted [these remarks] on their own personal pages on the Facebook social networking site. However I did come across a number of blogs and tweets that criticize these three youths being arrested for merely publicly expressing harsh and negative opinions of Suleiman.

Measures like those taken by the Lebanese authorities are not enough to consolidate the [Lebanese] regime’s position; firstly because this regime has failed on a number of occasions to prove that it is neutral and in a position to protect both individuals and society as a whole. Secondly, because this regime will discover – as many others before it have – that its control and restriction mechanisms have become ineffective in the face of the telecommunications revolution whose capability of circumventing various types of control never ceases to surprise us. This does not mean that the political forces will stop surveillance and repression, for these forces view freedom as a threat and an antithesis. They are in the grip of an obsession that will never end unless they are able to take complete control of the public’s tongues and actions.

As for the recent case of the three young men on Facebook, and regardless of their remarks and the controversy surrounding them; this certainly represents something that the Bureau of Information Crime need not place them under arrest for. There can be no doubt that the Bureau of Information Crime, the General Prosecution, and even the Minister of Justice, have many cases and issues that are far more deserving of their time and effort than a lost cause such as this. Others have tried to prosecute similar cases and failed to control the negative consequences of this. The effort here lies not in drafting a law that suppresses internet freedoms as is currently taking place behind closed doors in Lebanon’s parliament, but rather in technically activating this area [the internet] and organizing it, rather than not suppressing it or having intelligence agencies monitor it.

Whilst searching for the comments posted by these three youths, I found pages that support the Lebanese president, and these pages included a lot of comments that praise and commend President Michel Suleiman. One of these comments drew my attention, and I will reproduce it for you here verbatim, “Mr. President, we wish that you would rule Lebanon with an iron fist in the same manner that the martyred leader Saddam Hussein ruled over Iraq.”

I was a little confused upon reading the previous comment, as I believe that wishing that an Arab president should utilize power following the Saddam Hussein model is something of an insult. This comment was posted months ago and it seems that nobody objects to it. Of course, my words are not a call for anybody new to be arrested, but there seems to be confusion surrounding what is slander and defamation.

In my opinion, this invariably contains a lot of confusion.

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled is a prominent and well-respected TV journalist in the Arab world thanks to her phenomenal show Bil Ayn Al-Mojarada (By The Naked Eye), a series of documentaries on controversial areas and topics which airs on Lebanon's leading local and satelite channel, Future Television. Diana also is a veteran war correspondent, having covered both the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli "Grapes of Wrath" massacre in southern Lebanon. Ms. Moukalled has gained worldwide recognition and was named one of the most influential women in a special feature that ran in Time Magazine in 2004.

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