At March, we’re used to the impolite and juvenile way the General Security’s Censorship Bureau deals with us. The former chief, upon banning our play satirizing the bureau’s work, made it his sacred mission to go on every talk show in Lebanon and elaborate how “stupid” “childish” “uneducated” and “far from reality” our work was. He based his “analysis” on a secret “panel of experts” that conveniently echoed what the bureau chief thought. Eventually, our play did get OK-ed by the new chief, marking a victory for March and proving how broken the censorship “laws” actually were: one chief banned it completely, another let it through untouched…
However, the bureau has stooped to unusual lows this time after our most recent experiment. We got together a bunch of scripts and op-eds from popular TV shows and websites and newspapers in Lebanon, and put them in play-format and submitted them to the bureau, to see if they’ll ban something that’s already public. They did, completely. And after 90 minutes of back-and-forth, the bureau chief said it was fully banned.
When we started mounting our campaign to demonstrate how absurd censorship is, the higher-up in the GS’s censorship bureau called us liars, saying that they didn’t ban it, that they just wanted a few words removed. How was it possible to do that? They never give you a paper to prove anything, they just inform you “orally”. The same thing happened when they refused to renew one of our members’ passports to punish him for writing our first banned play, which after the intervention of the Ministry of Interior, was rectified and this absurd “ikhda3″ (submission) tactics made a thing of the past, hopefully!
This fear of the General Security when it comes to written paperwork backing up their decision, goes to show you not even they are convinced of the things they censor, and they realize it’s just as stupid, insulting and uncalled for as we do. So, here, I’d like to ask them, if you think what you’re doing is right, why hide and deny it? Stand by your decisions and give us papers to verify you banned our work so we can avoid this high-school mean-girls discussion of “he-said-she-said”.
Luckily though, under law as well, if the GSCB (General Security Censorship Bureau) doesn’t reply within 8 weeks, it gets considered as a “rejection” or ban. And that is why we are filing a complaint with the Lebanese Shura Council, in hope they’ll do the right thing and overturn this executive order that is blatantly useless and unfair to Lebanese artists and writers who are the only people who suffer at the hands of the GSCB.
Here, we’d like to remind you of several things you can do to avoid going through the GSCB altogether:
- Screen or display your work in university campuses. The GSCB has no jurisdiction there, and even if something is banned, you can freely display it on campuses like AUB and LAU with no trouble whatsoever.
- March and SKeyes are ready to appoint legal representation and cover all the expenses if you are ever targeted for something you said, wrote, filmed, recorded or published online. We can’t be expected to tell the Lebanese people to speak freely and unabated, without making sure if the government or those controlling it for their special interests, you are fully protected and represented by some of the country’s foremost legal minds.
So, ma tkhafo min el 7orriye, khafo 3laya!