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Lebanon's Publications Court sentences several journalists on defamation charges

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) has denounced recent rulings issued by the Lebanese Publications Court against a number of journalists and media professionals over free expression cases.

On 2 June 2014, Beirut's Publications Court issued rulings against retired Brigadier General Mustafa Hamdan and Mariam Al-Bassam, News Program Manager at Al Jadeed TV, over defamation charges.

Hamdan was fined 6 million liras ($US 3972) while Mariam Al-Bassam was fined 2 million liras ($US 1324). Al Jadeed TV, in the meantime, was cleared of the charges. The court also obliged Hamdan to pay 10 million liras ($US 6620) as compensation to the plaintiff, a ruling which was issued on the basis of a lawsuit filed by Samir Geagea, leader of the Lebanese forces, against Al Jadeed TV as well has Hamdan and Al-Bassam. The lawsuit was brought forth as a result of the contents of the Al Hadas (The Action) program's episode aired on Al Jadeed TV on 26 June 2010.

On the same day, the court fined columnist Amri Abdel-Hadi Ali Nassif 6 million liras ($US 3972) and demanded that he pay 5 million liras as compensation to the plaintiff over a defamation charge filed by Samir Geagea, again, against Al Kalam Company of the Media and Athabat Newspaper, represented by director Waleed Zabebo, managing editor Fouad Atiyani and columnist Amri Abdel-Hadi. This was as a result of an article written by Amri Abdel-Hadi and published on 2 April 2010.

"The verdicts issued against journalists and media professionals as a result of expressing their opinions peacefully are a continuation of a s series of judgements and prosecutions targeting media professional and journalists sued by Samir GeaGea," said ANHRI, "Most of the cases were ruled in his favor."

ANHRI makes clear that the Lebanese authorities ongoing prosecution of journalists and media professionals is a clear violations of freedom of expression and opinion as well as press and media freedoms.

ANHRI calls on the Lebanese authorities and all the political parties present to provide an appropriate atmosphere for journalism and to discontinue the targeting of activists and opinion makers.

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