January 23, 2018
Washington, D.C. – The conviction by a Lebanese military court of Hanin Ghaddar, the Washington Institute's Friedmann Visiting Fellow, on charges of "defaming" Lebanon's armed forces has triggered an outpouring of attention from world media as well as support and solidarity from a broad range of human rights and free-speech groups.
Newspapers, radio and television around the world — including virtually every major wire service — have reported on the closed trial and six-month sentence meted out in absentia to Ms. Ghaddar, the Institute's expert on Hezbollah and former editor of Lebanon's NOW Media. This press scrutiny has, in turn, earned her the strong backing of groups committed to civil liberties.
The Beirut-based SKEyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom issued a statement in support of Ms. Ghaddar saying: "The Lebanese authorities are increasingly mirroring the behavior of authoritarian regimes in the region that use military justice as a weapon of repression on the basis of weak arguments. This trend will continue as long as those in power who claim to defend freedom of expression, allow military sanctions to be imposed on journalists participating in conferences."
"We express our full support to Hanin and call on the authorities to drop this unfair sentence," declared the Arab Reform Initiative. "We will always stand up for the values that ARI upholds and in solidarity with all those who face threats for expressing their opinion."
Non-Middle East-focused institutions took notice, too. PEN America, the largest chapter of the celebrated international organization that defends free speech, featured news of Ms. Ghaddar's conviction on its home page.
Commenting on the case, Washington Institute Executive Director Dr. Robert Satloff stated: "Hanin Ghaddar is a brilliant journalist, insightful analyst and courageous Lebanese patriot, who had the temerity to speak truth to power in her country. Readers in Washington and around the world have benefitted greatly from her research into Hezbollah and Shiites politics in the Levant and we at Washington Institute are proud to have her as a colleague.
"Over the years, the U.S. government has provided Lebanon with substantial assistance to advance our common interests and to support the hope, however faint, that Lebanon could some day regain its reputation for tolerance and diversity. Indeed, the Lebanese military will receive $120 million in U.S. aid this year and has been the recipient of over $1.5 billion in aid over the past decade. However, the fact that a military court convicted Ms. Ghaddar of a crime for speaking in Washington about the political situation in her native land and sentenced her to prison, without even a lawyer present, speaks volumes about the current state of freedom and justice in that sad country."
Ms. Ghaddar's prosecution arose following her appearance at the 2014 Washington Institute Barbi Weinberg Founders Conference in which she stated during a panel discussion that the Lebanese military targets Sunni groups while showing preference to Shiite groups, such as Hezbollah.
Speaking on behalf of The Washington Institute, Dr. Satloff thanked global media for raising public awareness about Ms. Ghaddar's case as well as the U.S. and Middle East-based nongovernmental organizations that have issued statements of solidarity.
The Washington Institute will continue to monitor the situation and release updates when available.
About the Washington Institute: The Washington Institute is an independent, nonpartisan research institution funded exclusively by U.S. citizens that seeks to advance a balanced and realistic understanding of American interests in the Middle East and to promote the policies that secure them. Drawing on the research of its fellows and the experience of its policy practitioners, the Institute promotes informed debate and scholarly research on U.S. policy in the region.
Media Contact: Ian Byrne, 202-452-0650, email.