NOW Lebanon rejects the LIRA draft law


Photo credit: @TrellaLB

Fellow Tweep @AntoninGregorie brought to my attention today a report from the National News Agency that falsely claims NOW Lebanon met with Information Minister Walid Daouk about his proposed electronic media draft law, dubbed the “Lebanese Internet Regulation Act” or LIRA by local bloggers. In addition, the French version of the article went even further and falsely claimed that our website supports Daouk’s law.

Let us be clear: NOW Lebanon did not attend the reported meeting with the minister. Furthermore, NOW Lebanon does not support Minister Daouk’s draft law or any other piece of legislation which would require bloggers or other Internet users in the country to register their websites with the government. Only countries notorious for political oppression and restrictions on freedom of speech, such as China, Saudi Arabia and North Korea, have practiced such measures.

It would appear that the entire issue of regulation is being advanced simply to introduce government jurisdiction over the Internet under the guise of protecting citizens’ freedom from an unknown/non-existent threat.

It is extremely naive to think that the state would step in to protect free speech when the government has proven over the past year that it is anenemy of it.

The first article of Daouk’s draft law bans “anything that offends public morals and ethics.”  Who decides what is moral? As I’ve written before,  the price of freedom is that we must accept not only what we love, but also what we hate. Freedom of speech is not defined by measures of taste or decency; it’s not about what is “right” or “wrong.” It’s about the right to choose for yourself what is “right” or “wrong.”

You want to protect Internet users?

Start by deregulating, so that the state is no longer unfairly monopolizing the industry and wielding indecent levels of power. For instance, why do we have bandwidth caps on the Internet in Lebanon? It doesn’t matter if you use 1, 10, or 100 GB a month, it costs Ogero (which controls the cables hooking Lebanon to the net) the same amount to operate. The reasons they’re requiring these caps are simple: they’re making a ton of (free) money off customers and nobody is stopping them.

You want to protect Internet users?

Then pass a law stating that no entity or person may block, interfere with, discriminate against or otherwise impair the ability of any person to access, use, send, post, receive, or offer any lawful content, application, or service on the Internet.

The Internet is arguably the freest platform for speech, communication and public discourse that exists in the world today. We must protect this freedom.

Meanwhile, it should be noted, Minister Daouk is claiming the law he submitted is optional. A politician claiming a law is optional? Words… fail me.

For more information, check out this report from the Samir Kassir Eyes (SKeyes) Foundation for Media and Cultural Freedom.

#StopLIRA

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