2012-03-11

Stop LIRA: The Lebanese Internet Regulation Act

Minister Walid "Internet Killer" Daouk
The Lebanese cabinet postponed on March 08, 2012 the discussion of the draft law for the regulation of electronic media, giving it more time to rewrite the terms of the act.

The proposed draft law caused some stir in the Lebanese blogosphere and social media scene.

Lebanon is known to be one of the few (not to say the only) countries in the Middle East region where freedom of speech is still in action (with lots of challenges though).

Following is a translation to English of the articles of the act propose by Daouk — hence DaoukA. (As per the published draft on Annahar website, and sorry for the terrible translation in advance)


Reasons
As Lebanon is a leader among the Arab states in passing laws and regulations governing media in form of publications, audio-visual and satellite transmission,
And as the quest to keep pace with current technological development is an essential and urgent target in the context of promoting freedom of expression, making access to information available and to raise the barriers and obstacles in front of the flow, access to and sending/receiving of information by modern communication systems,
And as the electronic media has taken an important position in the media space, especially in our country, and before the issuance of laws and regulations that govern how it works and reinforce it, and due to importance and growth of this technological development at the level of electronic media, it is required to issue flexible regulations and legal systems to keep up with this issue, sustaining it on one hand, emphasizing and maintaining the principles and foundations and diversity of cultures and beliefs and enabling everyone to deal knowingly and consciously with the abundance of information received and available quantity and quality,  on the other hand.
Bill for the electronic media 
Article 1: Posting by electronic means or other is free, no restriction is exerted on this freedom except in accordance with the laws in force. Prohibited is any publication by electronic means affecting the morals and general ethics, and related to gambling games. 
Article 2: By electronic communication is meant sending, receiving, publishing, diffusion, handling and storing of information, by means of electronic or electromagnetic waves or digital media or any other means, whether signals or writings or texts or sounds or fixed or animated images or combined together and re-used.
Article 3: Electronic communication takes place between the public and occurs through the circulation of information that do not have the character of personal correspondence, and its content can be made available to the public or any person upon request. 
Article 4: A website means the electronic information system which has clearly define name and address and data which the owner must deposit at the Ministry of Information in return of a receipt, with the requirement of providing the following information, namely:
A - Name and identity of the site owner, whether a legal entity or natural.
B - Name of the official manager — appointed by the owner, of natural persons — address in Lebanon and contact details, and represents the site towards the administrative and judicial authorities. And should fulfill the following conditions:
  • Possesses his civil and political rights, not convicted of a misdemeanor or felony.
  • Does not manage more than one website.
  • Does not possess judicial immunity.
Article 5: The owner of the site can be its manager, in case the above conditions are met. 
Article 6: Shall apply to workers in the electronic media sites the rules and regulations that apply to journalists, reporters and staff, whose duties are included in the Press Law 382/94. 
Article 7: Shall apply to electronic media sites laws and regulations governing the assets of published and broadcast advertising, publicity or promotion of an event or a product or a company or person, in particular those relating to property rights and literary property. 
Article 8: The press court is to handle all violations and legal disputes arising from electronic sites and their work. 
Minister of Information 
Walid Daouk

How does this law affect us?

In short, your online presence must be transparent to your government. Your content should be approved. And you're site is treated as a newspaper and is regulated by related archaic laws. Plus, you lose any right to express yourself once you are convicted.

The world protested the attempts to regulate the Internet by the American government.
What's worse about this law, than its technical inadequacy and obvious lack of knowledge about the medium in question, is the timing it's being passed.
The region has been boiling with revolutions (aka the Arab Spring) led by Internet social media activists. The world stood unanimously against the American government attempt to regulate American website and censor some of their contents.
All this, and yet we go against the global current of freedom of Internet and right to free speech, in a lame attempt to take over the Lebanese online scene and impose a "Big Brother" eye over the Lebanese Internet society.

How should we react?

Protesting. Like with SOPA and PIPA, we can make a difference by refusing similar acts by protesting in face of the (ir)responsible parties. Contact your representatives in the parliament. More awareness to the subject should be spread, in the means of blog posts, memes, protest art, flyers, etc...
Avoid hosting your websites on local domains. Although the law does it specify it directly, but this could be an effective measure.
Protect your privacy and anonymity by using effective tools (like HTTPS everywhere, Tor network, etc...).

Everyone has a role to play in this fight. This is YOUR Internet. Don't let the corrupt governors who have been destroying your dreams, to take away your right to a free and accessible Internet.

9 comments:

  1. Please sign the petition to stop the Internet Law Draft in it's current structure http://act.ly/5oa

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  2. I just Tweeted it and posted it to Facebook. I'm going to also advocate it through my blog like I did with SOPA and PIPA. Keep up the great work, and let's fight it!

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  3. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this law seems to only affect .lb domains? Those already need to be registered with the government and they have their own archaic procedures(like the fact that you need to own the trademark to your website's name and stuff).

    Or is what they're saying that you need to register *any* website which you put up on the internet with the government? That operating any website means breaking the law if you're not registered? If that's the case then they're really clueless about how this stuff works, there is no way in hell they can even begin to enforce this.

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    1. "Avoid hosting your websites on local domains. Although the law does it specify it directly, but this could be an effective measure."

      this is not clearly specified, they might be after the site manager who must be lebanese person/entity...

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    2. Probably they want to loose the sites hosting business in Lebanon too. This is crazy, Lebanon is becoming the next Vietnam in regulations, what a dim looking future for such a short sighted regulations for a tiny place like Lebanon.
      Lebanon is just moving out of track towards a dim pathetic future in my opinion, with such narrow minded regulations. Pathetic.

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  4. LIRA has absolutely nothing to do with SOPA or PIPA! SOPA & PIPA were meant to protect intellectual property. LIRA does not mention intellectual property. Don't make this comparison. It undermines your credibility.

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    Replies
    1. yes am totally with you on that, I only mentioned SOPA/PIPA while making the analogy to the campaigning that must be done.

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  5. Thank you for translating this to English. I quoted you on my blog post and linked back to you, so I hope it is okay that I quoted you!

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