Play director questioned in Lebanon, fuelling freedom worries

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BEIRUT, Oct 4 (Reuters) – A theatre director whose play was reported to the Lebanese authorities for allegedly criticising the president was launched with out cost after questioning on Monday, his lawyer stated, in a case that has fuelled fear about freedom of expression in Lebanon.

The director, Awad Awad, was additionally summoned on the grounds the play was staged with out the permission of a safety company that should approve performances underneath the nation’s censorship legal guidelines, the lawyer, Ayman Raad, stated.

Presented as a part of a scholar workshop at Beirut’s Al Madina Theatre on Friday, the improvised efficiency handled the connection between individuals and the authorities in oppressive regimes around the globe, Awad stated.

He stated the play didn’t point out anyone in Lebanon and if anybody felt focused, that was their drawback. Awad instructed Reuters after he was questioned on Monday he would safe the official permission wanted to stage the efficiency.

Reuters couldn’t independently confirm what the play was about. A press release issued concerning the incident by General Security, the company which implements Lebanon’s censorship legal guidelines, didn’t present particulars about its content material.

In the assertion, General Security rejected what it described as makes an attempt to painting the matter as a violation of freedoms, saying that it was making use of the regulation and would proceed to take action.

General Security stated that the play by Awad, a Palestinian, had been carried out “without passing through the legal path” through the media workplace within the General Security directorate.

The Lebanese state says it respects freedom of expression, however human rights teams have expressed concern lately over the problem in a rustic the place media have historically operated extra overtly than in lots of different Arab states.

Social media activists, commentators and journalists have been summoned by safety businesses in dozens of circumstances between 2019 and 2020 for allegedly defaming President Michel Aoun and criticising the military or parliamentarians, stated Sahar Mandour, Lebanon researcher at Amnesty International.

While the variety of such circumstances had dipped within the wake of final 12 months’s catastrophic Beirut port explosion and as Lebanon descended deeper into an financial meltdown, she expressed fear that this might mark the beginning of a brand new wave.

“We are very concerned with today’s summoning,” she stated on Monday.

“This is a scary warning that the iron fist is in the making again.”

Nidal Al Achkar, the founder and artwork director at Al Madina Theatre, stated any individual within the viewers had “told security that we are doing something against the government and president”.

“There was no such thing,” she instructed Reuters, denying that Lebanese leaders had been attacked in the course of the efficiency.

“They are young people who are very angry, expressing themselves about the situation in Lebanon – lack of electricity lack of money, they have no work,” she stated, describing the temper of the performers in the course of the improvised efficiency.

Still, the theatre administration took the choice to cancel a second efficiency of the play on Saturday till the censors had authorized it. “We considered it was a workshop … in festivals we don’t give our text to the General Security,” she stated.

Under Lebanese regulation, the department of General Security that offers with censorship reads the scripts of performs earlier than deciding whether or not to provide permission for them to be carried out.

Additional reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman; Writing by Tom Perry, Editing by William Maclean and Howard Goller

Palestinian director Awad Awad gestures as he leaves after being questioned by the Lebanese General Security, during a protest in support of his play and freedom of expression, in Beirut, Lebanon October 4, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Palestinian director Awad Awad gestures as he leaves after being questioned by the Lebanese General Security, during a  protest in support of his play and freedom of expression, in Beirut, Lebanon October 4, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Palestinian director Awad Awad hugs his mother as he left after being questioned by the Lebanese General Security, during a protest in support of his play and freedom of expression, in Beirut, Lebanon October 4, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir