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.”

→ Respond to this post On Twitter
  • Rumi

    Anyone who enters politics should forsake his share in anything related to media, or at least any media that is supposed to convey objectively how he or she is performing.

    I know they’re are a hundred ways around it, but it’s more a matter of principle than anything else; if you are part of the news, you shouldn’t take part in conveying it.

  • Rumi

    There are*

  • MM

    Noteworthy indeed. Among the possibilities you should consider is an Addiyar-type shakedown of the ex PM. Just speculation. keep in mind that hardly any news outlet in Lebanon can survive without political financial patronage. If Mr. Hariri has been late or is considering reducing his financial support for the site, and/or its very famous PR exec founder, then this is a warning shot.

  • Mustapha

    The reason I’m very annoyed with this particular act of censorship is because this is a very centrist, and reasonable “Lebanon-first” article.

    By censoring it, NOW is effectively discouraging the Lebanon-first mentality and reinforcing the idea that Lebanon is part of an Iran-vs-Saudi Arabia regional battle, with Hariri firmly in the latter…

    • Rula Khattib

      The author of the piece was probably Michael Karam, who wrote the recent article in the Spectator about leaving Lebanon. He was the founding editor of Now but left in 2009. Friends tell me he still writes the editorials

  • jadbeavis (@jadbeavis)

    Censoring one of their own contributing authors because his article criticizes Saad Hariri, actually makes the article in question one of the most read and talked about oped pieces of the day. It’s going viral.

    They should keep that in mind. Fewer people would’ve noticed it if it were kept online.
    It’s understandable that the dude funds their website/organization, but they shouldn’t stoop down to the totalitarian level of Hezbollah and other thugs.

    • Mustapha


    • Qaph

      They will make sure next time to censor before publishing.

      • jadbeavis (@jadbeavis)

        Sad, but true…

  • robot

    To be against censorship, there’s no question. But unless you have more info, all I can see is that the article is removed, censored or not? I can’t be sure, and can’t be sure that it’s Mr. Hariri who did it. But about the article itself, it isn’t really written with full reason and objectivity. I’m not defending anyone but it’s clear that it can have a lot more objectivity than it has.

  • izisaoun

    The reason why I am annoyed with this act of censorship is not for the loss of content as much as for the loss of the freedom it represents: someone practicing the gift of intelligent speech instead of burning tires. That for me is the value of that article, irrespective of its direction. Thorny is the road to democracy in this part of the world, and we stand out as quite unique in the region: an imitation democracy, a society indulging in the practice of representative government, but utterly inexperienced in the founding principles of such a system, including but not limited to freedom of the press. Under the feeble cover of democratic practices lies dejection. But the grassroots have enough safety valves to let the steam off – freedom of speech not being one of them.

  • Rana

    Lol! I actually read this article when u tweeted it this morning! And was surprised too by their stance, thought Now Lebanon had a sudden change of heart. Oh well, now with the retraction they made it worse. Its sad when the media is governed as such, no matter by whom.

  • moodz

    Thank you for reproducing the article Muss. It’s sad that “centrist” opinions are being sacrificed at the stake of “partisan views”

  • Nicolas Hayek

    Thanks for standing up for the rights that have become shackled by the higher-ups. Keep up the activism.

  • izisaoun

    Intentionally removed for lack of proper arguments, not for censorship reasons… Humm, how about that for a justification. Folks higher up at NOWLebanon actually screen and analyze content after publishing? Or are just challenging readers’ intelligence with such a disclaimer. Anyone taking their job seriously up there in that ‘not owned in whole or in part’ place? The article is back on: that’s good. Content Management process at NOW needs assessment.

  • Rikki

    So why put it back up if the argument was flawed?