The complaint was filed against the co-founder and executive director at FEMALE and editor in chief of Sharika wa Laken feminist platform by actor and director Joe Kodeih.

Dozens of people rallied outside the Beirut Justice Palace on Thursday in support of activist and journalist Hayat Mirshad, who is being sued for defamation. She was summoned by Beirut Court of Appeal Advocate-General Judge Zaher Hamadeh.

Hayat Mirshad, co-founder of the Fe-Male collective and editor-in-chief of the Sharika wa Laken feminist platform, told L’Orient-Le Jour that she refused to appear before the criminal court, and that she was represented there by her lawyer.

“As a journalist, I’m supposed to appear only before the court of publications,” she said. “We ask Judge Hamadeh to transfer the case to said court.”

Actor and director Joe Kodeih filed the complaint against the activist. The feminist platform had campaigned against showing one of his plays in a Beirut theater, calling for a boycott of it and for the show to be canceled, due to harassment claims made against him by several women and young girls in 2020. Kodeih was never charged on the basis of these accusations.

“We are protesting today against journalists being brought before the criminal court,” said Mirshad. “Unfortunately, this is a recurring occurrence. On the other hand, we would like to underline the laxity of the courts when it comes to protecting women from violence.”

She added, “Every week, there are femicides. Harassers, on the other hand, are hardly ever investigated or, if they are arrested, are released under false pretexts. The treatment of these issues is always tinged with machismo. Instead of prosecuting the culprits, judges attack journalists who expose these facts! We demand that the testimonies of harassed women be taken into consideration.”

Mirshad reiterated the call, which her lawyer made on Thursday, that the case be transferred to the court of publications. In a Facebook post, her platform denounced “Public Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat’s delay in ensuring that all similar cases be transferred to the court of publications.”

Speaking in front of the Justice Palace, the activist also denounced “a systematic campaign against public freedoms in Lebanon.”

For his part, the head of the Press Editors Syndicate Joseph Kosseifi denounced in a statement on Thursday the increasing number of summonses against journalists as they carry out their duties.

He highlighted that “while every citizen has the right to bring a media-related case before the courts, it is their duty to do so before the court of publications.”

“We refuse to allow our colleagues to appear before a criminal court, the cybercrime office or the public prosecutor’s office,” he added.

“We also refuse to allow anyone to use loopholes in the publication law as a pretext to arrest journalists, which we will campaign against at all fronts.”

Nevertheless, he asked journalists to respect journalistic criteria by giving a voice to all parties and respecting all opinions.


This article was originally published in French in L’Orient-Le Jour. Translation by Joelle El Khoury.