Laval, Canada - September 05, 2002

Communiqué

Instead of increasing the security of citizens and disarming all non-governmental armed groups, the Lebanese government has decided to clamp down on the freedom of the press, known to be one of the most free press in the Middle East. 

Murr Television station (MTV), which belongs to the newly elected opposition MP Gabriel Murr, was forcefully and permanently shut down on September 4th. Employees were beaten, humiliated and the offices were broken into. The minister of Information, Mr. Ghazi Aridi, opposed the action and said it was an "unacceptable, horrendous encroachment to muzzle Lebanon's free media. I am decreasing my office functions and will boycott Thursday's cabinet session in protest against the unforgivable shutdown of a media outfit." 

Another Television station, the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (LBCI) is also prosecuted and is awaiting a similar fate of being terminated. Both TV stations are known for their opposition to the government policies and to the Syrian occupation of Lebanon . 
This act constitutes a clear violation of article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that guarantees the freedom of opinion and expression. On the other hand, they create an environment of psychological and physical terror among civilians, especially that many human rights abuses (abduction, torture, exile, assassination…) have been largely reported by Human watch international organizations since 1990. These abuses are mainly directed against civilians opposed to the government’s policies and to the Syrian occupation of Lebanon and demanding the withdrawal of 40,000 Syrian soldiers, according to UNSC resolution 520. However, the current attack against Lebanon's free media is an extremely dangerous development. For it is known that such suppression of media is a prelude to subsequent acts of collective violence against an unprotected population. 

The Lebanese government should focus more on security issues rather than oppressing the freedom of opinion. We remind the Lebanese authorities that many more important cases of political assassinations have not yet been closed: the murderers of Engineer Ramzi Irani (2002) are still unknown as well as those who assassinated Minister Elias Hobeika (2002), the four judges in Sidon while standing in court (South Lebanon), President Rene Moawad, Cheikh Moufti Hasan Khaled… Besides, numerous militia groups are still armed, which constitutes a serious threat to the regional peace and security as well as to the citizens’ security, such as the mass murder at the ministry of education a few weeks ago, by a person allegedly belonging to a Syrian-backed armed militia, the killing of many Lebanese soldiers in clashes with armed groups in Baalbeck, Tripoli, Saida, Tyr, the serious casualties caused by clashes between these armed groups…

RCPL, Rassemblement Canadien Pour le Liban, a Canadian registered non-profit organization, with a mission to promote Human Rights respect and democratic principles in Lebanon, would like to express its deep concern about the latest events and the increasing degradation of the democratic system in Lebanon, which was once the beacon of light for the Middle East and an asylum for all freedom seekers.

We urge the international community, especially the Canadian government, to assume their responsibilities in promoting and protecting humanitarian values worldwide, and to officially condemn the dangerous violations of human rights and civil liberties in Lebanon that contradict with the Canadian values as stated in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
We also call upon the Canadian government to pressure the Lebanese authorities to respect their commitments in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCP) by protecting the freedom of opinion and expression, ensuring civilians’ security and stopping violence and illegal arrests .

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