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SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Social Media Reaction to Nour Hajjar’s Comedy Sketch

Tuesday , 29 August 2023
Photo credit: Balkis Press/ABACAPRESS.COM

48 Hours of Ongoing Death Threats


In light of the recent surge in violence incitement and death threats directed at the comedian Nour Hajjar over the past few days, the Samir Kassir Foundation (SKF) has taken the initiative to monitor and analyze the reactions garnered on Nour’s personal Facebook account. The objective is to gauge the overall level of support for freedom of expression in Lebanon, particularly during the period of political and societal turbulence that the country is currently undergoing.


On August 25, 2023, Nour Hajjar was summoned by the Military Police in Rihanieh following his posting of a satirical sketch addressing the dire socio-economic challenges faced by the Lebanese Army personnel. Subsequently, a wave of condemnation initiated by a number of influencers started on social media. These influencers accused Nour of showcasing disrespect towards the army. This campaign was interpreted by human rights activists as a precursor to the summons.


After an 11-hour investigation by the Military Police, Nour Hajjar was eventually released. However, that did not mark the closing of the case, as he was instructed to return to the Rihanieh station on the following Tuesday morning.


A starting development emerged as another bout of incitement to violence incitement against the comedian was instigated immediately after his release. The online assailants alleged that Nour had uttered words derogatory to Islam. Numerous queries have arisen regarding the timing of this attack, directly following Nour’s release on Friday night, particularly considering that the contentious video, which caused the controversy among some Muslims, was created almost five years prior. Human rights activists and Nour’s fans surmised that influential, potentially intelligence-affiliated actors, had resurrected the video in the aftermath of the investigation, possibly to rationalize their violation of human rights and garner support against the comedian.


During the past few days, the surge of incitement against Nour has persisted and escalated to an alarming extent. This escalation has culminated in influential religious figures releasing statements and videos condemning Nour’s satirical content. These statements have indirectly hinted at the potential of using violence and overtly signaled an intent to pursue legal action against the comedian.


As of the time of this report’s publication, a significant development has taken place. Nour has been taken into custody after General Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat issued a 48-hour arrest warrant, a duration that could potentially be extended. It is worth noting that the General Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat maintains close ties with Lebanon’s Grand Mufti, leading to speculation that Oueidat’s actions might align with the Grand Mufti’s directives. Eventually, Hajjar was released on the evening of August 29, after six hours in custody.


In this study we adopted a framework that investigates various aspects, including the stance of users toward the victim of the violation, the presence of hate speech in their interactions, and the evident political affiliation of the audience. The following report examines a subset of 200 comments selected chronologically from the most pertinent responses garnered on Nour’s post from August 25 to 27, 2023. The ensuing results are detailed below.

Fig.1 - Position towards the victim of the violation


Upon scrutinizing 200 accounts, the analysis revealed that a significant 97% (194) of users exhibited opposition to the satirical content featured in Nour’s sketches. Merely 2.5% (5) of these accounts denounced the hate-fueled assaults and extended their support to Nour. A solitary user maintained a neutral stance on the matter.

Fig.2 - Use of hate speech


Among the 200 analyzed accounts, a notable 53% (106) posted comments that contained hate speech, with a substantial portion featuring explicit incitements to violence. Conversely, 47% (94) contributed comments devoid of hate speech, although a vast majority (89 accounts) still manifested their opposition to Nour..


Fig.3 - Commenters’ visible political affiliation


Among the 200 accounts subjected to analysis, 16% exhibited affiliation with Hezbollah, while a mere 2% displayed support to the Amal Movement. In contrast, 41% showcased indications of aligning with political Islam, and a minor 3% demonstrated affiliation with the Future Movement. Finally, 38% of the accounts did not show any explicit political affiliation, though the overwhelming majority among them echoed the discourse used by supporters of the four aforementioned political groups.


It is important to emphasize that within the realm of Hezbollah-affiliated accounts, a substantial 62% employed hate speech in their comments. Similarly, among the Islamist-leaning accounts, 56% also resorted to hate speech. Additionally, 42% of the accounts lacking visible political affiliations included content infused with hate speech. Finally, almost all users associated with the Amal and Future movements resorted to hate speech as well in their comments.


In conclusion, the presented figures underscore a worrying surge in the dissemination of hate speech since the inception of our social media monitoring initiative. From a practical standpoint, our statistical analysis vividly delineates the trajectory of Lebanon’s socio-political landscape. Over the past three months, the government has orchestrated one of its most sweeping crackdowns on fundamental human rights. This crackdown encompasses actions such as summoning journalists and comedians before military tribunals and actively fomenting the targeting by extremists of public and private spaces that embrace progressive values.


The seemingly paradoxical coalition between Muslim factions (embodied by the Shiite alliance of Hezbollah and Amal Movement and Sunni Islamist groups) and Christian extremists (exemplified by the Soldiers of God) is now more conspicuous than ever. Equally unmistakable is its intent - to tarnish and vilify civil society while eradicating any substantial prospects for a change in governance towards accountability and civic values in Lebanon.


SKF envisages this report serving as an urgent clarion call, prompting immediate action from local and international human rights organizations, Lebanese public opinion, and the global community at large. Timely intervention is imperative to avert the further escalation of an already dire situation.

This report was produced with the support of:

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