Lebanon, maybe not the most politically stable or democratic country on earth, but the only privilege of democracy that the common Lebanese citizen has is the freedom of speech and expression. When most nations have laws preventing the common man to express his opinion freely when directed to the government or what the government in that country calls “national security” in Lebanon the public has always been free to speak their mind and have acted upon this right. This has been the backbone of Lebanon, governments have fallen and new ones have been formed due to the exercised freedom of the public, when and whether they chose to use it or not.
From the 70’s towards the new millennia, the internet has pushed people to a whole new world of communication. News could spread faster and is accessible to anyone, anywhere at any time. This information revolution became the frontline for activists and opinion speakers. This free-to-all worldwide platform took over the job that the TV, radio and newspapers had. People were no longer bound to listen, and even more important, to believe everything they read or hear on mass media networks.
Lebanese Internet Regulation Act, otherwise known as “LIRA”, the proposal by Minister of Information then (2012), Mr. Walid Daouk, shocked the Lebanese virtual society and internet users from all fields and professions when he suggested laws regulating the use of internet media and information. Such laws were denied by the public in U.S.A and Western Europe; people found it a restriction to their freedom and an invasion of privacy. And not to forget that Americans and Europeans are used to governmental restrictions due to a certain “national security” standard they have to keep.
So no wonder the Lebanese public reacted furiously to such proposals. The Lebanese people, consisting of 5 million freedom fighters, which fought many wars as civilians to protect their own individual beliefs and opinions, would not let an elected official, whom they elected, tell them what they can and cannot say.
No matter what the regulations are, the word regulation means to enact and monitor online activity. The internet was and should forever be a free platform for people to feel safe to express their mind or let loose and be the person they want to be without judgment. The internet has made it easy for people to purchase articles they wouldn’t purchase in stores because of the discomfort they would feel from the public judgment. People can log in to online chat rooms as avatars and create a person and a personality they want to be because some cannot be themselves in real life. Online forums have grouped and joined people of similar fetishes all over the world. Cultural taboos, such as topics related to sex, religion and art were once not up for discussion or free expression, but not anymore. Taboos are now liberated from geographical restrictions and limitations.
Everyone is born free, and online they shall remain free.
(This post is meant for a web journalism class I’m attending as part of my bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communications.)