Wake up. Get a serious-sounding call from a 01. Officer quickly introduces himself and summons me to their offices next day at 10:00AM. Asked repeatedly what for, all I got was “just be here at 10″ and could barely get directions to the bureau. An hour later, technical glitches at IDM and Cyberia made access to the blog via these providers impossible. So, you can imagine the uneasiness I was feeling about the interrogation that followed what at first seemed to be yet another block of my blog after the one in December.
I left my phone and car at a public parking. Just memorized the number of my lawyer. Technically, they shouldn’t go through my phone, but many police and army personnel have helped themselves in the past, and even though I have nothing to hide, I’d rather my phone and contacts remain private considering I am innocent of any crime. I go up to the 4th floor, get seated in a room with four desks and 6 investigators, and wait for the investigator assigned to my case.
Of course, I knew I had done nothing wrong. Over 4 years on the blog have taught me how to avoid slander and libel (kad7 w zamm) in my writing. As for any other crimes, the only thing I could think of was my criticism of bad practices by the ISF that could land me in that seat (despite my fair-handed writing of when they do good as well).
Turns out it was a slander and libel complaint filed by Bonofa, the people behind Cube 7, by a person I never met or heard of before. It was an article I wrote back in July, that you can find here, and check for yourself that there is no slander in libel (as per more than one legal advisor).
Just so you get an idea about what the complaint said: that I was “promoting skype and viber and yahoo, while bashing Cube 7″
Here is what I actually said:
Some potential pyramid schemes, like the newest fad launched yesterday, Cube 7, that promises to group all your favorite social networks in one place, look like they’re gonna work for sure. But, one thing about the cyber world we do know, is that forecasting an untested product rarely ever works. Myspace flopped, AOL is history and Yahoo can barely pay the bills. No one expected Facebook to have most of the connected world on it, or for Instagram to sell of a billion USD. As for Cube 7, one thing we do know about the internet, is that if it’s not free, it most probably won’t work. Why would I pay for a service when someone else is providing it for free? Proof is that Skype, though awesome, never made money, and now, after Microsoft bought it and is trying to make it profitable by making features that were once free, paid, free versions of VoIP, like Viber, are quickly catching up because they’re still free.
How it Ended
After giving in my deposition, and stating my position clearly that I never broke the law, and that the constitution reserves my right to express my thoughts freely, the investigator suggested, that it was time to sign my commitment I was like, “hell no!” and that was when I got riled up after an otherwise pleasant and professional encounter with the bureau staff and chief. The investigator tried to tell me that this is the easy way out, though wasn’t as insistent and never threatened with jail or worse. I said I did nothing wrong, and that I won’t be bullied into admitting something I never did.
He disappeared into another room to, as he said, inform the judge about my decision. He came back, saying that the judge was insistent on signing the commitment. So was I about not signing it, knowing that amazing people would have my back in this fight for basic rights and freedoms. After he kept going to and fro, allegedly talking to the judge, the vocabulary was changed to “guarantee my right to express my opinion freely” but “without using slander and libel terms”. I signed that because it means nothing. Why? Because I never used such terms, and the law states that already, and I am under the law like any other citizen. So, I had absolutely no problem signing that amended commitment to leave and enjoy the rest of my day with the people I love.
This is Scary
The fact that a slander and libel case is taken into criminal court and a criminal investigation undertaken is horrendous. The fact that a lawyer isn’t allowed with you, is scary. The fact you actually need to show up physically and file a deposition under threat of 48 hour detention that can be renewed and attempt to entrap you by signing a commitment that is incriminating to you in its wording, is outright bullying, and happening way too often in Lebanon.
We might not be ruled by a dictator, or in a police state, and the government is often too fragmented and incapable of oppressing its citizens. But, because it is week, bullies with influence and money can use the government’s institutions and bureaus to their advantage. I call on the Lebanese judicial system to restore some of our faith in it, and do what we know it can do: be fair. Instead of help bullies pick on journalists and bloggers and activists.
NB for legal purposes: bullies in general, not talking about any specific case there
Written by Gino Raidy. Continue reading: www.ginosblog.com