Lebanon: ANHRI Deplores the Censorship Conditions for Licensing “Beirut Syndrome” Play

Cairo: 23 November, 2015

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) condemns the condition made by the General Security’s Censorship Bureau, on November 16, for licensing “Beirut Syndrome” play directed and written by Lucien Bourjeily; as it required the omission of some sentences in order to give the license for its release.

On his Facebook account, Bourjeily announced he headed to the General Security’s Censorship Bureau on the 16th of November so as to receive the approval of the play, half of which was submitted to the bureau, entitled “Beirut Syndrome”, on 23 October 2015. The play revolves around a female citizen decides to publicly unmask and judge a political leader (unspecified) who is corrupt and criminal, under the absence of any other means of accountability. Bourjeily had been writing “Beirut Syndrome” for more than a year and a half. Nervelessness, he was surprised with the General Security’s Censorship Bureau asking him to sign for the omission of two sentences in two different scenes of the text, in which the corrupt politician talks about the censorship bureau’s merits and his good relationship with it. In return, Bourjeily would obtain the license of the play. However, Bourjeily refused such a compromise considering each sentence has its own importance in the theatrical text.

Lucien Bourjeily is a young Lebanese writer and director. He jointly works with March Association. His interactive play “Le Ayonk Saydna” (for your sake,Our Lord) was banned by the General Security. In 2013, he released a play entitled “Betaa’ta aw Ma Betaa’ta” (Cut or no cut), which talks about the Censorship Bureau. Bourjeily was also banned from traveling in May 2014 owing to his play.

We refuse the censor’s intervention either by modification, omission or addition to a piece of artwork, especially if it was for politically motivated reasons. The artwork is an integrated structure. We cannot extract part of it, particularly if it is an integral part of its artistic construction. In case “Beirut Syndrome” play talks about unmasking the ruler, it is unreasonable that the author misses the use of censorship authority as a tool in the hands of the ruler to blackout corruption”, ANHRI said.

It added, “the frequent ban of artworks highlights once more the role of censorship in hindering the development of the artistic movement in the Arab countries, as well as the suppression of critical and constructive thoughts. Thus, the right of censorship should be withdrawn from the General Security and returned to the citizen, who is the owner of the inherent right to judge the piece of artwork, besides being the one who deems it desirable or undesirable.

ANHRI calls on the General Security’s authority to approve the theatrical text of “Beirut Syndrome” play, and lift censorship on the citizen in terms of what should be displayed or shown.

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