Thursday, 14 Nov 2019

Riachy meets media institutions’ representatives: We fully adhere to freedom of expression under ceiling of respect

Caretaker Minister of Information, Melhem Riachy, met this Thursday at his office in the ministry with representatives of the audio-visual and written media institutions to discuss the referrals of the Elections Supervisory Committee. The meeting highlighted adherence to the concept of freedom of expression, under the ceiling of respect.

Ahead of the meeting, Minister Riachy read a statement that said:

"Annexed to the Information Minister's letter to the Minister of Justice, the President of the Higher Judicial Council and the Attorney General of Cassation, and in response to the statement issued by the Chairman of the Parliamentary Elections Supervisory Committee who considered that the said letter interfered with the powers of the Supervisory Committee and represented an attempt to prevent the judiciary from exercising its powers to consider referrals made against media institutions, thus breaching the principle of separation of powers,

The Minister of Information would like to clarify the following:

1. The Ministry of Information, during this mandate at least, is the number one defender of freedom of information and a spearhead in the face of any attempt to muzzle the voices, within the legal frameworks.

2. The Ministry of Information rejects any accusation against it of interference, whether in the work and powers of the Elections Supervisory Committee or in the work and powers of the judiciary.

3. The referrals which were the subject of our letter to the Minister of Justice, the President of the Higher Judicial Council, and the Attorney General came in the context of defense to media freedoms amid the violation made by the Elections Supervisory Committee to the provisions of paragraph 7 of Article 72 of the Parliamentary Elections Law No. 44/2017, which imposed on the Committee the need to determine the criteria that allow the distinction between electoral media and electoral advertisement; a distinction that did not happen according to the book of the National Council for Audio-Visual Media. This comes in addition to the citizen's right to monitor the course of the electoral battle during the period of electoral silence, and this can only be done through the media."

Conferees then held a closed meeting in which they discussed the referrals made against the audio-visual media institutions, and issued a joint statement guaranteeing the rights of Lebanese citizens and media outlets.

The statement read by Riachy underlined the decision to "form a committee to follow up on this file with His Excellency the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice, as well as the President of the Higher Judicial Council, Judge Jean Fahd, and the Attorney General of Cassation, so as to reach the desired results. This committee will include members of the audio-visual and written media institutions."

Tackling what happened in the past few days of prosecution to media activists or citizens who expressed their opinions through social media, the Minister asked "not to tamper with freedoms, because freedom and Lebanon are inseparable and without freedom this country will lose all value."

"We fully adhere to freedom of expression according to one standard which is respect for ethics, and rejection of slander and defamation," the Minister concluded.

Source: National News Agency

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