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SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Monitoring MPs’ Human Rights and Free Speech Positions – October 2022

Monday , 07 November 2022

Background and Context


As Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun leaves office, civil society organizations, human rights groups, and alternative movements are reminded, by an angry population, of the various violations and political deterioration enabled by the President during his tenure. As per previous reports released by the Samir Kassir Foundation, the President’s term has not solely revolved around a spirling economic crisis and an explosion which killed over 230 persons in the country’s capital, but also centered on some of the worst violations against free speech and human bodily autonomy since the Syrian occupation in Lebanon, which ended in 2005.


Prior to the end of his term, specifically between the months of September and October, similar violations targeted Syrian refugees in an attempt to speed up their return to Syria and activists who attempted to forcefully return their deposits from banks. While these violations do not explicitly tackle free speech, we believe it is an important development of the securitization process reinforced by the President’s authoritarian practice in the past 6 years. Specifically, over 801 violations targeting journalists and cultural practice occurred during Aoun’s six-year term.


In this context, we believe that an adequate response to systemic repression ought to be long-lasting and policy-oriented. With a parliament that includes groups which claim to oppose many of the President’s practices, one would expect pro-free speech policy to be on the top of the agenda; however, this is far from the case.




Similar to prior reports, and as planned to be for all reports after the completion of the 2022 parliamentary election, the pool under study is exhaustive, with all accessible platforms from the 128 parliamentarians researched and monitored on a regular basis throughout the month. For the month of October, we monitored data for all 31 days for the month (October 1-31, 2022). The MPs examined range from representatives of historical and well-established sect-based parties, represented by strong parliamentary blocs, to those who spawned from “new” groups and movements emerging and developing in the past decade. The difference between “Change” and “Traditional” movements relates to several indicators and factors: the utilization of sectarianism in party/individual discourse, party/individual history in the context of sectarian contestation during and after the civil war, and the demographic make-up of the group or informal circles revolving around the particular MP.


This diverse pool allows us to provide strong and abundant comparative indicators in the pursuit of understanding how and when the questions of free speech and human rights are tackled and discussed in specific contexts. In our analysis of the data, we primarily focus on the following highlights: 1) the overview of the data and its categories, 2) a comparison between traditional and/or sect-based MPs, and those who took part in alternative/newly established non-confessional organizations; and 3) discrepancies (if any) from within these two categories of MPs.


Data Display


In the process of gathering this data, we insist that the information provided cannot be considered comprehensive, but more or less should allow us to put forth possible hypotheses about how the concepts of free speech and democracy are being brought up in the public political conversation.

Fig.1 - Distribution of data across political parties and groups


Fig.2 - Distribution of data across theme of statement, publication


Fig.3 - Distribution of data across Members of Parliament (MPs)


Table 1 - Distribution of data across group and theme, with non-sectarian opposition break down


Fig. 4 - Distribution of data across MPs since their election (monitoring commenced June 1, 2022)


Fig.5 - Distribution of data across political groups since the election of their respective MPs (monitoring commenced June 1, 2022)


The charts displaying Distribution of data across type of statement, publication and Distribution of data based on type of movement, which were available in all reports published since the May 2022 parliamentary election, were excluded from the October 2022, for the following, respective reasons: All statements comment on a particular situation without reflection on concrete policy; and all statements come from traditional parties.

Analysis and Key Indicators


The month of October demonstrated little-to-no significance on the part of the MPs’ focus on topics concerned with free speech. While a few MPs, neither of whom have a history of tackling free speech from a principled perspective, specifically focused on assassinations which have occurred in the past, no MPs (including opposition and change-oriented MPs) highlighted the grave violations against free expression and the targeted assault against particular marginalized groups currently.


One hypothesis regarding the lack of policy proposals and/or statements relates to the fact that the presidential elections milestone is what is being prioritized by MPs across the spectrum. In other words, laws, bills, and policy are not the primary focus of these elected officials, furthering a politics of rope-pulling and politicking rather than a track based on principle and socio-political stances.

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