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SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

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

Tuesday , 27 September 2022
Photo credit: Reuters

Background and Context


In the past years, Lebanese security forces have committed numerous violations against detained Syrian individuals, including but not restricted to inhumane jail conditions and a variety of violating and harmful interrogative methods. Infamous torture incidents recurrently occur in Lebanon and serve as a reminder of the brutal reality Syrians and other refugee communities face in Lebanon's prisons. In early September 2022, a Syrian man by the name of Bashar Abdel-Saud, who has been held for questioning, was killed in prison after undergoing documented torture. His death sparked a wave of reactions from variety of media personalities, Members of Parliament (MPs), and activists who urged that justice should be sought immediately, calling for opening prisoners’ torture files in Lebanese prisons.


On that note, we continue to pursue these monitoring assessments of parliamentarians, in which the statements (within reach) of all 128 MPs are observed on a daily basis. This is done in order to arrive at conclusions and analyses concerned with the ways in which political violence, state repression, and the principle of free speech are tackled by such MPs, in addition to whether or not this work is being demonstrated by concrete legislation.


This report will first commence with the methodology used to both monitor and assess the content acquired; while the method put forth is similar to that of prior reports, small differences will arise due to changes in sample theme and size. Afterwards, the data will be displayed and later analysed in order to arrive at clear conclusions for the month in terms of how various parliamentarians have addressed the aforementioned matters.




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 September, we monitored data for the first three weeks (September 1-21, 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 “sectarian” and “non-sectarian” movements relates to several indicators and factors: the utilisation 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 type of statement, publication

Fig.3 - Distribution of data based on type of movement

Fig.4 - Distribution of data across theme of statement, publication


Fig.5 - Distribution of data across Members of Parliament (MPs)

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

Fig. 6 - Distribution of data across MPs since their election (monitoring commenced June 1, 2022)

Fig.7 - Distribution of data across political groups since the election of their respective MPs  (monitoring commenced June 1st 2022)


Analysis and Key Indicators


Looking at the data, one pattern stands out: MPs belonging to independent, change movements are those primarily concerned with issues or violations pertaining to free speech, as exemplified by their commentary on the death of Bashar Abdel-Saud affected by his torture wounds. The way they tackled the issue is also noteworthy. Instead of merely commenting on the issue at hand, they highlighted the issue at its core and demanded that the torture file in Lebanon be opened. MPs Cynthia Zarazir, Ibrahim Mneimneh, and Halimé Kaakour even took the extra step and directly questioned the government about the issue of torture in a written document. Besides that, "Independent” MP Ihab Matar (previously close to the Future Movement) stuck to commenting on the issue at hand without specifying concrete and systemic remedies.


This month’s report particularly demonstrates a development in the way which independent, anti-establishment MPs have tackled issues concerned with freedom of expression. After having stuck to simply reacting to incidents for months, this month’s report suggests a more rooted response revolving around communication, follow-up, and specific policy. This is of extreme importance as it shows a shift in which independent MPs deal with underlying issues in the country. However, we believe it is of utmost importance to focus efforts on submitting draft laws, instead of limiting their efforts to media campaigns or written statements questioning the function of the government.

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