Lebanon: Stop the Criminalization of Exposing Environmental Atrocities!
The Regional Coalition for Women Human Rights Defenders in West Asia and North Africa (WANA) strongly condemns the unlawful judicial targeting of WHRD and independent journalist, Lara Bitar, Editor-in-Chief of The Public Source, in addition to the targeting of Journalist Jean Kassir from Megaphone News, via the unlawful judicial targeting via the CyberCrime Bureau (on behalf of The Lebanese Forces Political Party) in the former case, and the State Security in the latter, where on 31 March 2023, The CyberCrime Bureau summoned Bitar for interrogation, due to an article published on the platform of The Public Source, on environmental atrocities committed by the Lebanese Forces Political Party.
The targeting of journalists and WHRDs in Lebanon is a continuation of anti-rights actors’ efforts to silence voices exposing violations and demanding rights. The Public Source is criminalized via institutions that do not have the legal capacity to do so, for their exposure of environmental crimes committed by the Lebanese Forces Party since the civil war, including environmental fires and explosions, that affect local communities in geographically isolated areas in Lebanon, to cover their crimes and enjoy impunity. It is also important to bear in mind that Bitar and other journalists are easily targeted through unlawful means due to the fact state actors are accustomed to target independent women journalists, and according to Bitar: “(due) to the fact that the Lebanese Law does not recognize them as syndicate members and subsequently, are easily attacked.”
The attack on both the The Public Source should be seen as proof of a clear agenda to crackdown against independent women journalists who are part of the alternative syndicate of journalists, WHRDs and the right to self expression without national legal protection, and a continuous attempt to silence the voice of environmental rights, rather than it being a simple attack on freedom of expression. The Regional Coalition in consequence, calls on local, regional and international human rights and feminist organizations and groups, in addition to alternative media groups and platforms to stand in solidarity with WHRD and journalist Lara Bitar from The Public Source, and demand:
- Conduction of an accountability process for the environmental crimes committed by the Lebanese Forces Political Party via an independent investigation
- Immediate halt of the unlawful legal targeting of Lara Bitar by the CyberCrime Bureau
- Start an investigation with the CyberCrime Bureau and State Security over their illegal and unlawful judicial harassment of women journalists and WHRDs in Lebanon
- Ensure the provision of a climate that supports freedom of expression to expose crimes and constantly call for rights, including environmental rights