Beirut’s Publication Court, headed by Judge Raffoul Bustani, on July 5, 2018, convicted and fined five Lebanese journalists for offenses including criminal defamation and spreading false news, according to news reports and the regional press freedom group Skeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom. The court, which deals with media regulation, issued the fines in three separate cases, which are detailed below.
- Ibrahim al-Amin, editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Al-Akhbar, and Amal Khalil, one of the newspaper’s reporters, were fined 2 million Lebanese pounds (US$1,320) each for slander, libel, and publishing false news and ordered to pay an extra 10 million Lebanese pounds (US$6,600) in damages to the plaintiff, former Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, according to news reports and Skeyes.
News reports said that Suleiman had filed a lawsuit against Al-Akhbar in April 2016 over its publication of Amal Khalil’s article, “Presidential Security Advisor: A car thief and a geek.” The article, which was published on March 17, 2016, refers to Waled al-Zaher who served as an advisor to Suleiman and was also convicted of car theft, impersonating military officials, and forging documents and license plates. The paper featured Suleiman’s picture at the bottom of the article.
- Ghasseb al-Mokhtar and Abdel-Rahim Shalha, reporters for the now-shuttered pro-Syrian newspaper As-Safir, were fined 10 million Lebanese pounds (US$6,600) each and ordered to pay 1 million Lebanese pounds (US$660) in damages to the plaintiff, the Christian right-wing Lebanese Forces Party, according to news reports and Skeyes.
News reports said that the lawsuit had been filed in June 2015 by the lawyer Suleiman Labous, head of the Lebanese Forces’ legal department, on behalf of Suzanne Khoury Hanna, former director general of personal status in the Interior Ministry. The lawsuit was over the publication of an article entitled “The scandal at the Civil Status Registry Office in Baalbek: turning male into female,” which was published in As-Safir on June 13, 2015. The article criticized Khoury, who as general director was in charge of civil status records, for mistakes allegedly made in records in the eastern Lebanese district of Baalbek, where officials sometimes registered men as women or married men and women were registered as single.
- Maria Maalouf, a Lebanese journalist and editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab news website and newspaper Al-Rowad, was fined six million Lebanese pounds (US$3,970) for slandering and defaming Jordanian businessman Hussein Asmeik and was ordered to pay Asmeik 5 million Lebanese pounds (US$3,317) in compensation, according to news reports and Skeyes.
News reports and Skeyes said that Asmeik filed a lawsuit against Maalouf after Al-Rowad on November 8, 2015, published an article entitled “Hussein Asmeik, savior of Egypt or champion of money laundering.”
On July 17, 2017, four Lebanese journalists working for the independent Lebanese broadcaster Al-Jadeed were also fined 2 million Lebanese pounds (US$1,500) each for defamation, slander, and spreading false news, according to CPJ research.