(Photo courtesy of HRW)
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Authorities have increasingly used defamation laws to silence journalists and activists, a report released by Human Rights Watch Friday said.These numbers represent a 325 percent increase in defamation cases for online speech between 2015 and 2018, a period that coincided with deteriorating economic conditions as well as growing public disillusionment in Lebanon, the report noted.The report said that although most defamation sentences were reached in absentia, prosecution and security agencies "improperly, and sometimes illegally," sought to intimidate and influence defendants. To prepare the report, HRW interviewed 42 defendants and lawyers in criminal defamation cases over the past year, in addition to government officials and civil society leaders. Now, Parliament is considering a new media law that would amend existing defamation guidelines for published content.HRW believes that Parliament should ban imprisonment for all speech crimes, and also repeal the defamation provisions in the penal code and replace them with civil defamation provisions.At Friday's news conference announcing the HRW report, Kobeissi said that one public official had filed at least two defamation cases against him.
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