There is a growing debate about censoring the internet. By definition, Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, politically incorrect or inconvenient as determined by a government, media outlet or other controlling body.
Lebanon is known to be a country of freedom, a freedom that was always limited by the social boundaries and decency previous generations were raised on.
In the 21st century, things changed a lot in our country and even the whole Arab countries. Many years of what was called “Lebanese civil war” and now for few years, the “Arab Spring”. A spring that only brought red war fields full of destruction and red blood, instead of beautiful green fields full of green grass and multicolored flowers and trees. People are not willing to be “silent” anymore.
The expansion of media in general and social media in particular opened the eyes of the new generation. They want to be free. As Gibran Khalil Gebran said: “You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts”. All kind of wars have started. Some use weapons and others use words. Things got out of the hands of some governments. Most of the time, the only ones that are punished in Lebanon are the media people. Maybe they think they are easier to control.
Every couple of month a “freedom” and censorship issue raises in Lebanon, we hear loud protests about freedom and suppression of freedom, which motivated some people to start organization and social media pages that deal with the subject.
Banning the Iranian movie “ Green days “ ( 2011) was behind the start of the Lebanese NGO March, a civil movement that focuses on raising awareness about basic rights and civic duties. It aims at instilling these values at an individual level while simultaneously fostering dialogue and reconciliation between Lebanon’s diverse communities. The 18 different religious communities, that only agree to disagree.
Following that, March organization created a Facebook page called “STOP Cultural Terrorism” to document censorship events in Lebanon.
Events like Danielle Arbid’s movie, of Lara Fabien’s concert, and the controversy surrounding the Lebanese history book.
And now the latest “trend” of the Lebanese government is the “Lebanese police’s Cyber Crimes Unit”. They are mainly after the bloggers and activists publishing online.
We already mentioned some of them in previous articles in Glamroz, as Gino Raidy, a popular young Lebanese blogger. We add the following people arrested, banned or sued: Imad Bazzi a cyber advocacy expert, blogger and civic activist, Rita Kamel, blogger, Lucien Abou Rjeily, filmmaker and stage director, Jean Assy, civic activist and more.
So in the middle of this controversy, we ask ourselves, what is exactly the freedom of speech, where does it start and where does it end.
While we wonder if it is freedom that someone insults people, religions and governments in the name of freedom of the speech, we also ask ourselves if the government is completely free to condemn whoever they want, whenever they want, without a serious judgment and knowledge of the circumstances. Sometimes what might be harmful to this current government might be convenient for the next or previous one. So the same person who would be arrested this year, could be praised next year !!!
In the USA, there is The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution that prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. Under the name of this law, many “Americans” are insulting the country loudly in streets of NY city for example. Is this acceptable? Is this freedom?
As a personal opinion, I believe that sometimes people use the “ freedom” as an excuse to attack, insult and hurt others who don’t have the same believes as them. Maybe freedom is to proclaim loudly what we believe, ideas or thoughts, without getting beyonf the limits of decency and politeness. Same idea should be shown in different ways.
So dear “Lebanese police’s Cyber Crimes Unit”, I freely and politely ask you to be more meticulous about your arrests, and let our young generation move forward. Please let us watch a movie, read an article or follow an idea you might not like, as long as it doesn’t insult someone in particular, and as long as it gives accurate and correct information.
I completely understand that some sacred people or issues won’t be touched by anyone.
But I believe that not any religious or political figure should accept to be more protected than the life of a young mother who dies under the hands of a beast called husband.
Is it easier for the police to arrest a young writer, who’s only weapon is his word, while a killer is immediately released for no valid reason after killing his helpless wife?
The whole media talked last week about the family who got suffocated and burned to death in their house in Mar Chaya (Broumana). You heard that the house was burned due to a thunder that hit a tree near the house. This is true, but not the complete truth : what really happened, told to me by a neighbor who witnessed and tried to save them, that they called the civil defense center in Baabdat and in Broumana many times without getting any positive answer. They simply were to lazy to bring their trucks and try to save those three people who were burning under the eyes of the neighbors who did everything they could to get them out of the house.
This happened while the Lebanese “police” is working on arresting people who won’t probably kill anyone with their words.
Again, and again and again, we call for our government to focus on the important issues that are hurting the Lebanese people, please stop distracting our attention from serious problems and killings with very simple issues that my be resolved by a simple warning to a young Lebanese, in case it is necessary.
Finally we say that when you stop someone of expressing his thoughts, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.