Marcel Ghanem leaves after his trial at the Justice Palace in Baabda, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
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The charges recently leveled against political talk show host Marcel Ghanem have reignited the discussion on the guarantees to press freedom in Lebanon.The fact that Ghanem's case was not brought before the Publications Court – as is required by law in the case of alleged defamation acts perpetrated by a journalist or aired by a news outlet registered with the press syndicate – is an indication, according to Mhanna, that improvements in the legislation will not alone lead to greater guarantees of freedom of speech.The U.S.-based watchdog Freedom House found press freedom in Lebanon has deteriorated over recent years, with lawsuits against journalists and news outlets highlighting the ties between political parties and the media.With regard to the case of Marcel Ghanem, Melki noted that, from a legal perspective, the law does not guarantee him the additional protection reserved to journalists – as opposed to ordinary citizens – because the comments were not made by him directly.According to Tony Mikhael, Maharat's legal expert, Ghanem's case confirms that the criticism of public figures – on the part of journalists and citizens alike – does not cease to be considered a "criminal act" addressed through criminal procedures.
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