April 11, 2018
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a victory for freedom of expression, the Lebanese Military Tribunal yesterday reversed its January decision to sentence the Institute’s Friedmann Visiting Fellow, Hanin Ghaddar, a veteran Lebanese journalist, to six months in prison in absentia for “defaming” the Lebanese military.
Acting on an appeal from Ghaddar, the Tribunal dropped her sentence, ruling that it does not have jurisdiction to try a civilian journalist. The court referred the matter to the military prosecutor who could send it to a civil court for further action.
Ms. Ghaddar was prosecuted for her presentation at a 2014 Institute conference in which she discussed the Lebanese Army’s favorable treatment of the Hezbollah militia, which has been designated a terrorist group by the U.S. government. Journalists, human rights groups, U.S. lawmakers, and administration officials rallied to Ms. Ghaddar’s defense.
“I am gratified that today’s decision is not just a personal victory; rather, it is a victory for the free press. It is a victory for all Lebanese journalists who are fighting against oppression and defending freedoms, no matter the cost. No journalist - in Lebanon or elsewhere - should be persecuted for reporting the news or stating an opinion.
“This success would not have been possible without the outpouring of attention from the global media or the messages of support from a broad range of human rights and free-speech groups. I would like to thank everyone in Washington and Beirut who challenged the sentence and expressed solidarity with me against this unjust ruling.
“A special thank you to my colleagues and friends at The Washington Institute, in Washington and around the United States, for all their support - without their backing and encouragement, I wouldn’t have felt strong enough to face this ordeal.
“Today, freedom of speech won.”
“The Institute applauds Hanin for the strength and bravery she has demonstrated throughout her career and especially during this latest trying period,” stated Institute Executive Director Robert Satloff. “Her unlawful conviction exposed the extent of Hezbollah’s influence in a would-be democratic ally of the United States, extending even to the armed forces and the military prosecutor. This precedent should give pause to any country - friend or foe - who would seek to criminalize free speech.”
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.