Lebanese journalist sentenced to 6 months in prison for ‘attacking army’

Hanin Ghaddar
Updated 18 January 2018
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Lebanese journalist sentenced to 6 months in prison for ‘attacking army’

BEIRUT: A Lebanese military court sentenced Hanin Ghaddar, a Lebanese fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, to six months in prison in absentia on charges of “attacking the Lebanese Army.”

She wrote on her Facebook page: “I am going to prison because I voiced my opinion while criminals and terrorists freely roam the country.”

Ghaddar’s defense attorney, Marwan Sakr, said: “Sentencing my client in absentia was prompted by a declaration she made in 2014 during a seminar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, when she said the Lebanese Army discriminated between Sunni and Shiite terrorism while tolerating the latter.”

He added: “In similar cases we normally object to the sentences, but in this particular case we cannot raise any objection because Hanin lives outside Lebanon.”

The SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom said the sentence “constitutes a dangerous precedent in Lebanon, in which the military judiciary intervenes in a civil case. It also constitutes lack of justice, muffling of voices, and deliberate bullying in which one party plays the role of a referee in a manner that contradicts the principles of fair trial.”

The sentence is “a new step toward turning the Lebanese government into an authoritarian regime, similar to other regimes in the region, where military judiciary is used for oppressing the public under vague terms and false arguments,” SKeyes added.

“How can an authority that claims to be concerned about freedom and human rights carry out a military sentence against journalists participating in political seminars?”

The sentence came 24 hours after Lebanon reversed a ban on Steven Spielberg’s new film “The Post.”

The ban was recommended by the country’s censorship board, but the Interior Ministry rejected the recommendation and the film was allowed in cinemas from Wednesday.

The ministry’s decision “was based on the fact that more than 20 Spielberg movies were allowed in Lebanese theaters, so there was no reason to ban his latest, and this is a good precedent,” Gino Raidy, vice president of the MARCH Center for Freedom of Speech, told Arab News.

When asked if he is worried about riots erupting in cinemas, he replied: “These kinds of activists aren’t violent; they’re peaceful even when they have different views.”


WhatsApp says working with India’s Reliance Jio to curb fake news menace

The WhatsApp messaging application is seen on a phone screen August 3, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 26 September 2018
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WhatsApp says working with India’s Reliance Jio to curb fake news menace

  • More than 30 people have died this year in mob violence triggered by vitriolic messages on social media and WhatsApp, according to unofficial estimates, and police have previously told Reuters that minorities have been targeted

MUMBAI: Facebook’s WhatsApp is working closely with Reliance Jio to spread awareness of false messages, weeks after the Indian telecoms operator opened up the messaging service to tens of millions of customers using its cheap Internet-enabled phone.
Jio this month gave its more than 25 million JioPhone customers, many of them first-time Internet users, access to WhatsApp at a time when the messaging service is battling false and incendiary texts and videos circulating on its platform.
Reliance Chairman Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man, launched the JioPhone last year at a refundable deposit of 1,500 rupees ($20.60). The device is Internet enabled but didn’t initially allow the use of WhatsApp or have several popular smartphone features.
All new users of the JioPhone get educational material that tells them about spotting a forwarded WhatsApp message and encourages them to share messages thoughtfully, WhatsApp spokesman Carl Woog told Reuters.
“We are working closely with Jio to continue our education campaign for WhatsApp users,” Woog said.
In India’s smaller towns and villages, deep-seated prejudices, often based on caste and religion, and cut-price mobile data can aggravate the so-called fake news problem. Such regions are a key market for cheap devices such as the JioPhone.
More than 30 people have died this year in mob violence triggered by vitriolic messages on social media and WhatsApp, according to unofficial estimates, and police have previously told Reuters that minorities have been targeted in some remote and rural regions.
That has prompted New Delhi to call on WhatsApp to take immediate action to “end this menace.”
WhatsApp has already taken some steps to quell the rise of fake news. It has launched print and radio ad campaigns to educate users and introduced new features on the app including limiting message forward as well as the labelling of forwarded messages.
It has also partnered with Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), a New Delhi-based non-profit organization, to spread digital literacy in India’s towns and cities.
DEF will host a workshop in the eastern Indian city of Ranchi this week, WhatsApp’s Woog said.
WhatsApp also plans to expand its outreach program to existing JioPhone users.
Reliance Jio did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
With more than 200 million users, India is a key market for WhatsApp but one where it has had to delay the official launch of its payments services due to the country’s push on data localization.
WhatsApp is currently looking for an India chief and a policy head for the country.
It last month appointed a grievance officer for Indian users at its Menlo Park, California headquarters, like other global tech firms whose grievance officers sit outside of India.
India has, however, said it will toughen up its laws including pushing US tech giants to have their grievance officers in India.
($1 = 72.8000 Indian rupees)