Lebanon: Writer faces criminal charges for defamation
PEN is deeply concerned about the trial of Hani H. Nsouli, a Lebanese writer and political activist who has been recently transferred to the individual criminal court in Beirut on charges of “defamation.” Nsouli’s first hearing will be held on January 22, 2019.
Nsouli’s trial is related to his social media publications and a voice comment he circulated through the application WhatsApp, in which he criticized a public political figure. He faces slander and defamation charges under Articles 582-584 of the Lebanese Penal Code. PEN considers that defamation should be addressed solely as a matter of civil law within the national jurisdiction of the concerned state. Consequently, it calls upon the Lebanese government to immediately drop criminal charges against Nsouli and to repeal or amend its laws in conformity with its obligations to respect the right to freedom of expression and impart information under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
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Please send appeals:
- Calling on the Lebanese authorities to immediately drop the criminal charges against Hani H. Nsouli and to ensure the full respect of his right to freedom of expression;
- Abolish or amend its criminal defamation laws and ensure that adequate safeguards to protect the right to reputation are provided solely through civil law;
- Ensure the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression and opinion, including dropping all charges against writers and journalists under investigation or detention solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights.
Send appeals to:
Mr. Salim Jean Jreissati, Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice
Sami Soloh Street – Adlieh Area – 5th floor
Beirut – Lebanon
Fax: 00961 (0) 1-611142
Mr. Nohad Machnouk, Minister of Interior and Municipalities
Al-Sane’ – al-Hamra
PO Box: 9710 – 9500
Beirut – Lebanon
Fax: 00961 (0) 1750084
Email: [email protected]
It is recommended that you send a copy of your appeals via the diplomatic representative for Lebanon in your country. Contact details for embassies can be found here.
** Please keep us informed of any action you take in regard to Hani H. Nsouli’s case, including any responses you receive from the authorities.
On September 19, 2018, Nsouli was summoned to the Central Criminal Investigation Department in Beirut and was interrogated after a brief detention for seven hours. Nsouli has been charged following a lawsuit filed by a public political Lebanese figure who accused him of defamation under Articles 582-584 of the Lebanese Penal Code. The judicial case (No. 2977 of 2018) was subsequently transferred to the individual criminal court in Beirut on charges of defamation, and the first hearing will be held on January 22, 2019.
The defamation claims are usually referred to the court of publications in Lebanon. Referring Nsouli’s case to the criminal court can violate the rights to freedom of expression and opinion of the writer.
In its report, Stifling Dissent Impeding Accountability — Criminal Defamation Laws in Africa, PEN indicates that many governments “continue to stifle freedom of expression, open debate, political criticism, and media reporting using laws that make it a crime to say, write, or publish anything that they consider defamatory or insulting.” PEN further adds, “these laws are usually vague and sweepingly broad, opening them to such wide interpretation that they act as an ever-present constraint, particularly on investigative journalism and other aspects of the media’s capacity to perform its public watchdog role.”
Hani H. Nsouli — born in 1954 — is a Lebanese political consultant & analyst who publishes articles in al-Nahar newspaper and several magazines that feature series of political articles on issues of corruption, violence, and liberties. In addition, he participated in a number of political programs on Lebanese and foreign television.
This alert comes directly from PEN International as part of the Rapid Action Network.