The Meaning and Limits of Freedom of Expression in Lebanon: Publications Court Jurisprudence on Freedom of Expression vs. Defamation


In light of the legal issues raised by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) trial (April to June 2015) against the Lebanese Al-Jadeed television on charges of contempt of court and obstruction of justice, the present paper seeks to assess the state of freedom of expression in Lebanon and the role played by the Lebanese judiciary in defining this right and delineating its limits, especially when it clashes with another right—in this case the right to protect one’s dignity in general, and the dignity of the judicial body in specific.

The present study analyzes all Publications Court opinions and decisions that were published between 1999 and 2014 following trials where media institutions and individuals were prosecuted for infringing national laws on defamation, and where the courts made a decision as to which right had to be protected in each case. The main objective of such an analysis is to document and identify a jurisprudence-based, working definition of “freedom of expression” and “freedom of the media” that is derived exclusively from Lebanese case law. Doing so helps fill a research gap on the literature and build a better understanding of the controversy around the STL trial of Al-Jadeed.