BEIRUT — The Lebanese judiciary issued a verdict for the imprisonment of Lebanese Journalist Dima Sadek on Monday, according to court documents seen by L'Orient Today.
The verdict, which sentences Sadek to one year in prison, was the result of a lawsuit filed by head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil, who accused her of defamation and slander three years ago, the court documents said.
Sadek communicated the details of the verdict in a video posted on Twitter on Tuesday, in which she explained she must settle a compensation of LL110 million to the FPM.
The lawsuit was filed in Feb. 2020.
In 2020, Dima Sadek and blogger Gino Raidy both announced that they had been summoned by the criminal investigations department to be questioned on the basis of a complaint filed on Feb. 14 by the FPM.
"In Feb. 2020, everyone remembers that two young men from Tripoli were assaulted by the FPM. One was attacked by (former MP) Ziad Aswad's bodyguards, and the other, named Zakaria al-Masri (...) says in his written testimony that he was beaten up and forced to say 'Aoun is your God and the God of Tripoli.' Gebran Bassil is suing me in the case of Zakaria al-Masri," Sadek said in the video. "In both cases, I said that these actions were racist and nazi," she continued.
جبران طالب حبسي بقضية زكريا المصري اللي بحسب افادته الرسمية قال انه تم ضربه واجباره على قول "عون رب طرابلس" . (وليس في قضية الشاب الذي اعتدا عليه مرافقو اسود). الافادة منشورة في اول تعليق . pic.twitter.com/UKkWOYAYVz— Dima ديما صادق (@DimaSadek) July 11, 2023
In another tweet, Sadek said Bassil sued her, accusing her of "defamation and slander as well as inciting sectarian strife."
"So, when they beat up the man, this is not 'inciting sectarian strife,'" Sadek said sarcastically. "And they weren't tried, arrested and no one said a word to them."
"But, a verdict was issued to put me, I, who condemned this act, in jail."
Sadek said the verdict against her — to be imprisoned in the defamation and slander lawsuit without a suspended prison sentence — sets "a very very dangerous precedent on the freedom of journalism, media and expression in Lebanon."
She explained that the judiciary can incarcerate her at any time if she does not appeal.
Sadek and the FPM were not immediately available for comment.
In 2020, Bassil denounced "the dissemination of false news" and the "publication of a video, falsely attributed to the FPM, including incitement to hatred and racism, which could give rise to a sectarian conflict."
Politicians stand in solidarity
Following the judicial verdict, several politicians and social media users posted solidarity messages.
Information Minister Ziad Makari took to Twitter and said, "After the issuance of a judicial verdict ruling the imprisonment of journalist Dima Sadek, it is important for us to stress our respect for the independence of the judiciary, and to affirm our absolute belief in freedom of expression, which is the essence of Lebanon."
"Accordingly, we renew our call to the Lebanese Parliament to discuss and adopt the vision of the modern media law that we presented before it, which abolishes prison sentences against journalists, as the law that respects international standards remains the only guarantee for preserving the freedom of workers in the media field, and protecting them from the provisions of the Criminal Penal Code that some resort to," he continued.
The Lebanese Forces also denounced in a statement "the judicial decision issued against journalist Dima Sadek," which they said stripped her "of her civil rights."
"This ruling constitutes a dangerous precedent in terms of imprisonment for defamation and slander lawsuits against media professionals," added the LF statement.
MP and Kataeb leader Sami Gemayel took to Twitter to say, "We reaffirm that the attempts to intimidate writers and free media will not work, but rather will increase their determination to defend their cause to the end. All solidarity with the journalist, Dima Sadik, in her battle."
The Progressive Socialist Party also issued a statement. "Whatever the facts are, freedom of the media, which is safeguarded by the Human Rights Charter as well as the Lebanese constitution, remains above all considerations. Under this ceiling, it is reprehensible that a prison sentence was issued against journalist Dima Sadek," the statement said.
Forces of Change MP Paula Yacoubian tweeted: "Free voices and activists, men and women, against the fanatical Nazi-fascist mafia. We are all with you."
Forces of Change MP Mark Daou also expressed his solidarity with Sadik, writing on Twitter: “All solidarity with the press, freedom of expression, the constitution, and Dima Sadek. This decision is an infringement of the Publications Court."
Meanwhile, the Future Movement considered, in a statement that "it is very shameful for some Lebanese judiciary to issue on-spot rulings media professionals, in response to political desires that have nothing but settling scores and suppressing freedoms."
The Future Movement "stands in solidarity with colleague Dima Sadik in the face of this renewed attempt to intimidate media professionals," calling on "the judiciary to reverse the verdict issued against her."
Independent MP Ihab Matar also commented on the verdict against Sadek saying "Freedom of expression was the basis for the establishment of Lebanon, but today we regret to mourn this freedom in front of a police state and a butcher’s judiciary."