Lebanese Internet Regulation Act
Lebanese activists recently began a “Stop LIRA” campaign in response to a new electronic media law drafted by the Lebanese government. The new law, called the Lebanese Internet Regulation Act or LIRA, will require every website owner to register their name and street address with the government.
The Lebanese Minister of Information, Walid al Daouk, told Annahar newspaper that the draft aims to register the name and address listed for every website so that the government can contact website owners if necessary, in return for the government’s official protection of intellectual property posted on the website.
Lebanese blogger Imad Bazzi posted on his blog that the draft represents the government’s attempt to censor activists by allowing security forces to trace and arrest dissidents.
Bloggers in Lebanon are worried that this law will severely curtail freedom of speech in the world of electronic media, putting them and their websites in a dangerous position. If they fail to register their websites, the government will have grounds to ban it. If they register their websites, posting content critical of Lebanese politics or government may put them at risk of violent retaliation from the government as well as from terrorist groups like Hezbollah.
Though LIRA is touted as a means of protecting intellectual property, activists in Lebanon are concerned that the new law will be used as a means of rounding up bloggers and cyber dissidents who rely on the anonymity of the Internet to safely express the thoughts and ideas that otherwise could get them arrested, beaten, or killed.