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.”


Israel targets rights groups with bill to outlaw filming of soldiers

Israeli soldiers are under constant attack by Israel haters, says defense minister. (AFP)
Updated 17 June 2018
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Israel targets rights groups with bill to outlaw filming of soldiers

  • Rights groups frequently film Israeli soldiers on duty in the occupied West Bank, documentation the organizations say is necessary to expose abuse by the military
  • A ministerial committee which oversees legislation voted to approve the bill on Sunday

JERUSALEM: Israel moved on Sunday to snap the lens shut on rights groups that film its troops’ interactions with Palestinians by introducing a bill that would make it a criminal offense.
Rights groups frequently film Israeli soldiers on duty in the occupied West Bank, documentation the organizations say is necessary to expose abuse by the military.
A video filmed by Israeli rights group B’Tselem in 2016 showing an Israeli soldier shoot dead an incapacitated Palestinian assailant drew international condemnation and led to the soldier’s conviction for manslaughter in a highly divisive trial.
The proposed law, formulated by the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition, would make filming or publishing footage “with intent to harm the morale of Israel’s soldiers or its inhabitants” punishable by up to five years in prison.
The term would be raised to 10 years if the intention was to damage “national security.”
A ministerial committee which oversees legislation voted to approve the bill on Sunday. It will now go to parliament for a vote that could take place this week and if ratified, will be scrutinized and amended before three more parliamentary votes needed for it to pass into law.
Yisrael Beitenu leader and Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, praised the committee and said: “Israeli soldiers are under constant attack by Israel haters and supporters of terrorism who look constantly to degrade and sully them. We will put an end to this.”
A Palestinian official condemned the move.
“This decision aims to cover up crimes committed by Israeli soldiers against our people, and to free their hands to commit more crimes,” Deputy Palestinian Information Minister Fayez Abu Aitta told Reuters.
The phrasing of the bill stops short of a blanket ban, aiming instead at “anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian organizations” which spend “entire days near Israeli soldiers waiting breathlessly for actions that can be documented in a slanted and one-sided way so that soldiers can be smeared.”
Naming B’Tselem and several other rights groups, the bill says many of them are supported by organizations and governments with “a clear anti-Israel agenda” and that the videos are used to harm Israel and national security.
The ban would cover social networks as well as traditional media.
B’Tselem shrugged off the bill.
“If the occupation embarrasses the government, then the government should take action to end it. Documenting the reality of the occupation will continue regardless of such ridiculous legislation efforts,” the group’s spokesman, Amit Gilutz, said.
B’Tselem’s video of the shooting in the West Bank in 2016 led to Israeli soldier Elor Azaria being convicted of manslaughter. He was released in May after serving two-thirds of his 14-month term. Opinion polls after his arrest showed a majority of Israelis did not want a court-martial to take place.