Lebanon censors caricature of Khamenei in French weekly

This cartoon that appeared in this week’s French magazine Courrier International.
Updated 18 February 2019

Lebanon censors caricature of Khamenei in French weekly

BEIRUT:  Lebanon’s General Directorate of General Security has censored a caricature of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei that was published in the French weekly Courrier International.

The directorate covered the caricature with a sticker before allowing the publication to enter Lebanon. 

The move has sparked debate on social media, including criticism and questions as to whether the directorate is affiliated with the Shiite group Hezbollah, a close ally of Tehran.

There were also questions as to whether such censorship would apply to other leaders who are caricatured by the French newspaper.

Journalist Dima Sadek shared the caricature on social media in defiance of the censorship. Journalist Diana Moukalled wrote: “Censorship makes people more aware. The authorities are presenting themselves as ridiculous, confused and absurd.” 

They and other journalists who oppose the censorship faced a backlash from Khamenei supporters, who described them as “puppets.” 




How the cartoon looked for Lebanese subscribers after passing through Iran-leaning government censors.

Social media activists led a campaign to block Sadek’s accounts, accusing her of deliberately insulting religious figures. 

Ali Al-Amin, director of Al-Janoubia news website, told Arab News: “Khamenei is a cleric but he deals with public affairs. He’s a political figure and a state leader who’s active in international and regional politics. Therefore, he may get criticized or represented in a caricature, and whoever says he’s untouchable is wrong.”

Al-Amin said: “There’s discretion in media censorship, and we don’t know what standards were used in this censorship.” 

He added: “Lebanon will see more restrictions on public freedom.” 

He criticized the use of a sticker to cover the caricature, saying: “People in Lebanon wouldn’t have noticed the caricature had the newspaper entered Lebanon as usual. No one would’ve commented on it.”

He added: “Newspaper readers are few and the majority of Lebanese readers turn to websites, so what was the point of censorship in this case?” 

The head of Lebanon’s Syndicate of Editors, Joseph Al-Qasifi, told Arab News: “Foreign publications, as well as cultural products such as films, are subject to censorship by the (directorate) before they enter Lebanon as per the Publications Law.”

He said: “We generally say freedom of opinion and freedom of the press in Lebanon have to be protected. This is a sacred matter that’s stated in the constitution.” 

He added: “I think censorship by the (directorate) needs to be amended in a workshop for the ministries of information, interior and justice, because amendment requires issuing laws by Parliament. As syndicates, we have an advisory role.” 

A source in the directorate said its head, Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, “is strict when it comes to all that could affect Lebanon and it relations, and prefers to have the oversight body criticized over allowing conflict inside the country.”


Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak dies

Updated 4 min 16 sec ago

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak dies

  • The 91-year-old was reported to be in intensive care on Monday

CAIRO: Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian leader who for nearly 30 years was the resolute face of stability in the Mideast before being forces by the military to resign after 18-day nationwide protests that were part of the Arab world’s 2011 pro-democracy upheaval, died on Tuesday, the country’s state-run TV said. He was 91.
Throughout his rule, he was a stalwart US ally, a bulwark against Islamic militancy and guardian of Egypt’s peace with Israel. But to the tens of thousands of young Egyptians who rallied for 18 days of unprecedented street protests in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square and elsewhere in 2011, Mubarak was a relic, a latter-day pharaoh.
They were inspired by the Tunisian revolt, and harnessed the power of social media to muster tumultuous throngs, unleashing popular anger over the graft and brutality that shadowed his rule. In the end, with millions massed in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and city centers around the country and even marching to the doorstep of Mubarak’s palace, the military that long nurtured him pushed him aside on Feb. 11, 2011. The generals took power, hoping to preserve what they could of the system he headed.
The state TV said Mubarak died at a Cairo hospital where he had undergone an unspecified surgery. The report said he had health complications but offered no other details.
Though Tunisia’s president fell before him, the ouster of Mubarak was the more stunning collapse in the face of the Arab Spring shaking regimes across the Arab world.
He became the only leader so far ousted in the protest wave to be imprisoned. He was convicted along with his former security chief on June 2012 and sentenced to life in prison for failing to prevent the killing of some 900 protesters during the 18-day who rose up against his autocratic regime in 2011. Both appealed the verdict and a higher court later cleared them in 2014.
The acquittal stunned many Egyptians, thousands of whom poured into central Cairo to show their anger against the court.
The following year, Mubarak and his two sons — wealthy businessman Alaa and Mubarak’s one-time heir apparent Gamal — sentenced to three years in prison on corruption charges during a retrial. The sons were released in 2015 for time served, while Mubarak walked free in 2017.
Since his arrest in April 2011, Mubarak spent the nearly six years in jail in hospitals. Following his release, he was taken to an apartment in Cairo’s Heliopolis district.
For the man who was long untouchable — even a word of criticism against him in the media was forbidden for much of his rule — prison was a shock. When he was flown from the court to Torah Prison in Cairo in 2011, he cried in protest and refused to get out of the helicopter.