On Monday, state prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat assigned the Central Criminal Investigation Bureau to conduct investigations to identify the people who post and have posted offensive photoshopped pictures and insults of President Michel Aoun, reported NNA.
Since the beginning of the revolution, there has been a plethora of memes and unfiltered comments targeted at politicians. That has been also the case in previous years with political partisans attacking each other’s leaders on social media.
However, in recent days, there has been a sudden surge of numerous social media posts criticizing the presidency, including demeaning photoshopped pictures.
Accordingly, the state prosecutor decided to put an end to it by launching a cyber investigation to track down those behind these posts.
Hence, people publishing posts, memes, videos, comments, etc, that insult the president, his position, and anything related to him, “will be legally sued on charges of defamation, libel, slander, and insult, and for making the posts viewable to the public,” said The Daily Star.
According to the same source, those “who shared pictures and comments on social media that insult the president and his position” will be also liable.
Some people did not react well with this news.
A Twitter user shared an old tweet by FPM leader Gebran Bassil who had once commented that “arresting someone for their tweets is outrageous” and “Is this what democratic Lebanon has become?”
That was in response to the arrest of an FPM party member who defamed and insulted the back-then president Michel Sleiman.
In context, the law of defamation and slandering is applicable in all democratic countries and where ‘all are equal under the law.’
These offenses are deemed as such when a person crosses the boundaries of freedom of speech and expression and causes another person a major verbal offense of detrimental consequences.
The offended could then decide whether he or she wants to press charges.
In Lebanon, however, the laws strictly prohibit such verbal offenses on the presidency. Insulting, or defaming, or slandering the president of the republic or the presidency is a criminal offense that can lead to 2 years in prison.
There have been previous arrests in Lebanon of citizens for much less than the obvious offense of a photoshopped image or straightforward insults like the above tweet.
Comments interpreted as insulting or defaming towards the president have led to arrests and jail time.