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    Beyond the Headlines: How Censorship in Lebanon Works (Part 2)

    So Lady Gaga’s Born this Way hasn’t been banned after all. You can buy it from Virgin Megastore instead of listening to it on YouTube or downloading it for free from the Internet. But as we said in a previous post, the big fuss made over the possible banning of an album by a mega-artist like Lady Gaga overshadows the fact that current censorship practices in Lebanon continue to discriminate against local film and theatre production. As Nizar Saghieh’s recent study on Lebanese censorship systems shows (online soon), all this is done according to flimsy legal pretexts and vague criteria which General Security interprets in an arbitrary manner and frequently in consultation with political and religious leaders. For example, creative works should not “pose any danger or harm to Lebanon”, upset “political” or “military” “sensitivities” or incite “sectarian or factional strife or discord”. These terms are so vague that they can be stretched in any direction to suit the censor.

    Of course censorship in Lebanon is nowhere near as harsh as in other Arab countries (although we now have to compete for the title of freest Arab country with Tunisia, Egypt, and soon hopefully Libya, Yemen, Syria…), but Lebanon being what it is, a deeply sectarian country with influential religious institutions, state security apparatuses which often overstep their prerogatives (e.g. General Security), and most importantly, an semi-imposed official civil war amnesia, creative expression is not always as easy as many think. There is a real contradiction between the projected image of Lebanon as the trendy haven of free expression in a sea of dictatorships, and the actual reality where any honest creative examination of sectarian tensions and the civil war faces real obstacles from official and unofficial quarters (admittedly the lines between the two are blurred).

    And the result?  Directors forced to cut key scenes from their films which are ‘upsetting’ to sectarian leaders (e.g. Simon Habre had to cut 6 minutes of his 2009 documentary One Man Village because it mentioned the role of the Progressive Socialist Party during the civil war – watch the scene here), films being outright banned or worse of all, self-censorship (e.g. NBN and al-Manar bowing to pressure from religious institutions and removing their Iranian series on Jesus Christ Al-Maseeh from the air). The examples are countless and stretch back to the 1990s; Ghassan Salhab’s 1998 film Phantom Beirut (“Ashbah Beirut”) and Randa Shahal’s Civilized People (“Mutahadirat1999) suffered severe cuts, and more recent works have also faced obstacles such as De Gaulle Eid’s What Happened? (“Shu Sar” 2010) and Nadim Tabet’s A Long Lebanese Film (“Film Lubnani Taweel” 2005).

    Of course you might ask, why are we going on about this, when the country is in so much political and social trouble? Because clichéd as it may sound, free expression whether creative, intellectual or political remains Lebanon’s greatest commodity (and here I’m talking more Marcel Khalifeh and less Haifa Wehbe); to help it flourish even more, it should be completely unfettered by pointless censorship and red lines imposed by sectarian leaders (who enjoy unlimited free expression via their media outlets).

    2 responses to “Beyond the Headlines: How Censorship in Lebanon Works (Part 2)”

    1. @ZakYahya says:

      Thanks for linking to the ‘One Man Village’ scene (among others), which it seems I have missed (not seen it before).

      This is ridiculous as the scene has nothing new we don’t know from history, and the old man was not unusual or extreme in his views or expressions.

      It make you wonder about the Lebanese politicians, who accuse each other everyday on tv, with things worse than; don’t they?

    2. […] A reminder of how censorship works in Lebanon: Part 1 , Part 2 Tweet Tags: Art, Censorship, HaninGhaddar, lebanon, Links, politics. Bookmark the […]

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