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SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Monitoring MPs’ Human Rights and Free Speech Positions – January 2023

Thursday , 16 February 2023

Background and Context


In January 2023, Lebanon lost its right to vote at the United Nations for not paying their minimum contributions to the operating budget of the international organization. A few Members of Parliament (MPs) shared some thoughts about it, but did not intend to highlight a human rights perspective; rather, they aimed at driving political points. For this reason, these few statements were not integrated in this monitoring report, which exclusively tackles human rights with a particular focus on freedom of expression.


On January 19, 2023, after the failure of the presidential election session of the parliament, two of the Change MPs, Najat Saliba and Melhem Khalaf decided to hold a sit-in at the parliament’s building, and explained that they will not go home until a President is elected. They justified their sit-in referring to the Lebanese Constitution that sets the election of a President as a duty on all MPs. This impacted statements shared by MPs online. Some were supportive of this initiative, and paid visits to the two MPs. Others were criticizing Khalaf and Saliba’s initiative, considering that the MPs are making a scene that will not be useful. Statements related to this development were not integrated into this monitoring report as they did not focus on human rights.


During this month, 48 MPs made a total of 106 statements related to human rights. All statements revolved around one of three main categories: freedom of expression, arbitrary detention, and judicial independence. All of these were inspired and driven by developments that occurred in January.


On January 14, 2023, William Noun was detained by authorities and his family house searched, reportedly due to alleged statements he had made about the Justice Palace exploding if justice for the Beirut Port blast victims was not served. Protests have erupted in response to his arrest. William Noun has been a spokesperson to families of the victims of the Beirut blast. His brother died in the blast. In this report, statements of support to William Noun were categorized under the theme of Arbitrary Detention.” It is important to note, though, that the legal justification of his arrest was a clear breach to freedom of expression, as it was made because of words he had spoken angrily after having waited for almost three years without any progress in the blast’s judicial investigations. The arrest came as a pressure to curtail the victims’ freedom of expression. However, SKF decided to separate statements related to this case from those tackling the theme of “Freedom of Expression” in general because MPs’ statements did not focus on freedom of expression, but pinpointed William’s arbitrary (and to some, illegal) detention.


On January 22, 2023, the Lebanese TV channel LBCI was attacked with an explosive device that was thrown at the channel’s premises, causing material damage. This happened after the channel broadcasted a comedy program that was considered by some to have a mocking approach against the Shiite community. In parallel, during protests in Sweden, a copy of the Quran was burnt. This event triggered another series of comments included in this report.


On January 23, 2023, judge Tarek Bitar, who is in charge of investigating the 2020 Beirut blast charged Lebanon’s top prosecutor Judge Ghassan Oueidat and seven other political figures and scheduled interrogation sessions with them. In return, Judge Oueidat filed a lawsuit against Judge Bitar. This event had a great impact on Lebanese protesters who took to the streets and gathered in front of the Justice Palace with some MPs supporting them. The political interference in the judicial system escalated and pushed multiple MPs to share statements about judicial independence in general and the role of the judiciary in the Beirut blast investigation particularly. For this reason, the third theme adopted to divide statements is “Judicial Independence”.




All of the 106 statements were made on Twitter and Facebook from the MPs’ personal accounts. Data was monitored during all 31 days of January (from January 1 to 31, 2023).


Impacted by the circumstances that the country witnessed during this month, statements were broken down into the three main above mentioned themes. Other relevant disaggregations were made as per the following data display.


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 freedom of expression, arbitrary detention and judicial independence were brought up in the public political conversation in January 2023.

Figure 1. Distribution of data across Members of Parliament

Figure 2. Distribution of data across political parties and groups

Figure 3. Distribution of data across non-sectarian opposition political parties and groups

In prior reports, SKF broke down the data across types of statements: “commenting on a particular situation” and “displaying an absolute stance, policy advocacy”. In this report, this disaggregation is not made since all statements were commenting on a particular situation, as explained in the general context.

Figure 4. Distribution of data based on group type

Figure 5. Distribution of data across theme of statement

Statements related to freedom of expression are divided into two main subtopics:

  • Hate speech (Quran burning during protests in Sweden);
  • And journalists’ rights (subdivided into the attack on LBCI and the legal summons of journalist Rami Naim).

Figure 6. Disaggregation of the Theme “Freedom of Expression”

Figure 7. Disaggregation of the Subtheme “Journalists’ Rights”

Table 1. Distribution of data across theme of statement and group name




Similarly to December 2022, MPs have started the year of 2023 with a remarkable engagement in supporting human rights.

Out of the 106 statements, 42 were about freedom of expression (40% of all statements), 36 about arbitrary detention (34%), and 28 about judicial independence (26%).


This month’s collected data reached the highest number ever since SKF started this monthly monitoring. This is mainly due to the events that occurred in January 2023.


This shows that there is an unprecedented level of interaction between popular movements on the one hand and MPs’ statements on the other hand. Citizens are influenced by MPs’ positions, positions which are caused by citizens’ opinions. It was remarkable to see that some MPs stood by the protesters’ side, whether physically on the streets or morally and efficiently during meetings with political and legal authorities, even though part of the public opinion considered such acts as theatrical scenes with no useful results.


It is important to finally note that ranking can be made using two methods:

  • The first method would be to compare the total numbers of statements made by political groups (Table 2 below).
  • The second method would be to compare the percentages of members (of each group) who made statements. In other words, SKF counted the numbers of MPs who made statements and belonged to one group, then SKF calculated their percentage compared to the total number of MPs who belong to the same group (Table 3 below).

Table 2. Ranking based on absolute numbers - from the political group with the most statements to the one with the least

As per the table, Independent MPs shared the most statements related to human rights in January 2023 (44 statements), while Marada Movement, Hezbollah and ex-Future Movement shared the least (1 statement shared by each of the two groups).

Table 3. Ranking based on relative numbers - from the political group with the highest percentage of members who made statements to the one with the lowest percentage

This ranking is based on every group’s total number of members in the current parliament. As per the table, all members of Kataeb made statements related to human rights in January 2023 (100%). The only National Liberal Party MP Camille Chamoun also made statements (1 out of 1). 9 out of the 11 Change MPs made statements (82%). PSP and ex-Future Movement tied in this ranking as 12% of each group’s total number of MPs made statements. Hezbollah ranked the last with 8% of its members making statements.

MP Ranking
  • MP with 17 statements: Mark Daou
  • MP with 14 statements: Ashraf Rifi
  • MP with 11 statements: Halimé Kaakour
  • MPs with 10 statements: Saïd Asmar, Elias Hankach, Ihab Mattar, Ibrahim Mneimneh, Michel Moawad, and Ragy El-Saad
  • MP with 9 statements: Michel Douaihy

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