Discussion Panel: “The State of Freedom of Expression in Lebanon”

The Karama Beirut Human Rights Film Festival will feature a Panel Discussion titled “The State of Freedom of Expression in Lebanon”. In the past year, Lebanon has witnessed such a clear increase in the number of cases that impede the right to free speech that it starts to appear as though these obstructions are in line with public and popular opinion. The state is obligated to respond to this public opinion, through its various institutions, relying on laws that are either revived or overruled in accordance with political need. This practice is legally and constitutionally at odds with what the Lebanese have come to accept regarding freedom of expression, which includes the right of reply and the right to discussion and dialogue.

The enormous evolution of the concept of communication platforms and their applications appears to surpass the capabilities of the official institutions, lost in trying to assess these platforms according to laws that are incompatible with this evolution. Nevertheless, we witness these same institutions selectively prosecuting creative works based on general constitutional powers, which contradict their purpose as institutions designed to protect and nurture the freedom of expression.

This highlights the citizens’ need for a wise- state, and their need for open dialogue, as well as the need to build in order to dismantle this conundrum that abuses duties as well as rights.

Two media personalities, prominent in the defense of freedom of speech, and activists in the local and regional civil and media spheres, will take part in this Panel Discussion

1. Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media for over 25 years.

  • BIO: In 1991, Diana graduated from Lebanese University faculty of journalism and started her career as a correspondent for Future Television covering many regional and international stories through “Through the Naked Eye” series.

    Moukalled’s expertise varies from news writing and reporting, to documentary and tv production and war coverage in hot zones including Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon.

    Human Rights, women, war, minorities and many other issues were topics of her long and extensive world coverage.

    In 2017, Diana launched along with 2 other partners, Daraj.com; a progressive independent media platform.

    Diana is also a columnist for several publications in both Arabic and English.

2. Ayman Mhanna is the Executive Director of Samir Kassir Foundation – SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom.

  • BIO: Ayman joined SKF in September 2011. He was also, for one year 2016-2017, the Executive Director of the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD), a network of 200 media development and journalism assistance organisations.Both at the Samir Kassir Foundation and GFMD, Ayman oversaw the organization of large scale conferences, workshops and festivals, gathering hundreds of participants.He previously served as Senior Program Officer for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (2007-2011) working on election observation, electoral reform and civil society involvement in public policy-making.Ayman was also a lecturer on the Master’s programme at Saint Joseph University’s Faculty of Economics, teaching Policy Development and Communications (2011-2016).He has served since 2016 as Secretary General of the Democratic Renewal Movement (DRM), a social-liberal, secular and reform oriented Lebanese political party, after having led DRM’s youth branch from 2008 to 2013.

University Talk: Free the Word

Three seperate screening events shall take place in three different universities, followed by a Q&A session and a guided debate regarding the topic of Freedome of Speech in Lebanon. The debate will be facilitated by a professional mediator who will gear the overall conversation towards a positive safe discussion platform; on each side of the debate will be students representing the refugees and minorities in the university and the local Lebanese students, both discussing and questioning the current crises and situation.

School Talk: Free the Word

Building on the successful reputation of University Talk and because we believe that the power of cinema to engage and educate works on an even deeper level the younger you are, we are now in the process of developing School Talk, which will focus mainly on high schools, introducing them to the concept of using cinema as a tool for the benefit, development and implementation of human rights.

Documentation:

It is of great importance that the seminars and outreach programs are properly documented in the form of a documentary film. As every year, a team of videographers will be archiving all the activities taking place. The final film will contain the workshops, results, on-the-ground reactions, activities, seminars and debates; this artistic documentation will be used as a tool for future campaigns, awareness seminars and screenings.