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.”


Iraqi blogger returns day after kidnapping

Updated 4 min 27 sec ago

Iraqi blogger returns day after kidnapping

  • “Around 15 men wearing masks and black uniforms” took Al-Khafaji from his home, the blogger’s father said
  • Twenty-four hours later, hei was “abandoned in a street with $20 to pay for a taxi home”

BAGHDAD: A prominent Iraqi blogger resurfaced Friday a day after he was seized by masked gunmen, his father said, as Amnesty International denounced a “climate of fear” in the country after protests and deadly violence.
Shujaa Al-Khafaji’s family said armed men had snatched him from his home on Thursday without identifying themselves or showing an arrest warrant.
Khafaji’s Facebook page, Al-Khowa Al-Nadifa (Arabic for “Those Who Have Clean Hands“), carries posts on political and social issues and has some 2.5 million followers.
“Around 15 men wearing masks and black uniforms” took Khafaji from his home, the blogger’s father, Fares Al-Khafaji, told AFP.
He said they seized his son’s phones and computers, but were not violent.
Twenty-four hours later, Khafaji was “abandoned in a street with $20 to pay for a taxi home,” his father added.
The report of Khafaji’s seizure sparked an outcry from activists and influential political leaders.
Rights watchdog Amnesty International denounced a “relentless campaign of intimidation and assault against activists in Iraq” by authorities.
“The Iraqi authorities must immediately rein in the security forces and dismantle the climate of fear they have deliberately created to stop Iraqis from peacefully exercising their rights to freedoms of expression and assembly,” said Lynn Maalouf, the group’s Middle East research director.
The group said other activists, including a doctor and a lawyer, were “forcibly disappeared more than 10 days ago,” and called on Iraqi authorities to reveal their whereabouts.
Firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr wrote on Twitter that “any act of aggression (against journalists or activists)... by the state constitutes an attack on freedom of speech.”
Former prime minister Haider Al-Abadi’s parliamentary bloc called on the government “to stop abuses of free media.”
Iraq was gripped by anti-government protests between October 1 and 6, during which 110 people, mainly demonstrators, were killed in clashes with security forces.
During the protests, unidentified armed men in uniforms raided several local television stations in Baghdad, destroying their equipment and intimidating their staff.
Journalists and activists also reported receiving threats, mostly by phone, from unidentified callers accusing them of having sided with the protesters.
Khafaji faced online harassment last month after a string of attacks on bases of the Hashed Al-Shaabi, a paramilitary force dominated by pro-Iran groups.
The group on Thursday denied any involvement in the disappearance of activists, threatening legal action against anyone making such accusations.
But according to Amnesty, the Hashed was involved in at least one abduction — that of lawyer Ali Hattab, who represented protesters and was seized on October 8 in the southern city of Amara.
He was snatched by “suspected members of a faction of the Popular Mobilization Units (Hashed),” Amnesty said quoting Hattab’s relatives.
It happened two days after “two armed men from the PMU came to (his) home to warn him to stop being vocal about the killing of protesters on Facebook, otherwise they would kill him,” Amnesty added.