You Cannot Censor the Web. Now Lebanon Removes Article Critical of Mr. Hariri. [Update: Article Restored]
This morning I read a reasonable opinion piece on Now Lebanon which criticized Mr. Saad Hariri and preferred Mr. Mikati’s leadership over his. I was so impressed with the fresh independence of that piece that I shared it both on twitter and on facebook. One friend, Elias Muhanna who blogs over at Qifa Nabki, presciently predicted that the piece can’t last much on Now Lebanon, a website that is at least partly owned by Mr. Hariri.
And as he predicted, by the evening the piece was gone [see update]. But I was prepared. They had done it before. So now, because it was censored, I think it deserves a much larger readership. I took a screenshot of the article (see below, click to enlarge). If you want to read the transcript, head over to Qifa Nabki.
Spread as widely as you can. They need to know once and for all that censorship doesn’t work.
After writing this post, I received messages from very well placed sources that convinced me that what happened was less a power play by a politician and more an act of bumbling self-censorship by higher-ups in NOW Lebanon who wanted to score brownie points with Mr. Hariri.
It is important to note that the removal of the article was a blow to the journalists who work at NOW, many of whom expressed their anger to me privately, noting that it made them look very bad given how often they argue in support of freedom of speech .
Gladly, the uproar caused by the exposure of the censorship here and in other places had the desired effect (thank you very much for sharing widely). The post is now back up (actually, technically it was re-posted, with a new link). The post also carries what passes for a face-saving disclaimer:
“NOW Lebanon has intentionally removed this article from the site. It was not removed because of censorship, but rather because of the lack of proper arguments. We would like to repeat, again, that NOW is not owned, in whole or in part, by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, nor any other political party or figure.”