Lebanon: Youtube-series to tackle the thorny issue of censorship
A new Lebanese web-series, ‘MAMNOU3’, was launched on 1 July 2012. The series is a mockumentary account of what goes down in one of Lebanon’s most infamous administrative departments, the General Security’s censorship bureau.
“At first sight it does seem that Lebanon has enjoyed wider freedoms than the rest of the Arab world. In reality, a very complex network of policies, influences and political maneuvering translate into a hapless censorship bureaucracy,” wrote Arie Amaya-Akkermans if BikyaMasr:
“Creative ways to bypass censorship not only exist but are increasingly mastered and improved upon by bloggers, artists and activists in the Arab world, and slowly, eroding the traditional function of the censorship bureau.”
The annual report for 2011, ‘Press and Cultural Freedom: In Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine’ by the Samir Kassir Foundation has shown the trends at work in Lebanon: Physical assaults on journalists by non-actors, increasing censorship in the film industry and attempts to regulate Internet content.
The Samir Kassir Foundation noted: “The year 2011 was undoubtedly one of the worst for press and cultural freedom in the region.” In regard to Lebanon they also added: “In Lebanon, it is time to take bold and effective measures to combat censorship by non-state actors to impose their cultural standards on all Lebanese people.”
A comprehensive study, ‘Censorship in Lebanon: Law and Practice’ available from the Heinrich Boell Foundation and edited by Doreen Khoury, provides acute insights into the censorship bureaucracy. In this study, the authors have gone very far in showing how censorship – of films, film screening, theater plays, publications and to some degree also TV – imposed by the Directorate General of General Security in order to prevent the distribution of material that would endanger security, upset national sentiment, damage public morals or incite sectarian tensions, is carried out without much legal precedent and on the basis of arbitrary – and rather fluctuating – arguments that lack general guiding principles.
You can follow the series on the website mamnou3.com
Broadcasted on YouTube
It is this Lebanon precisely that on 1 July 2012 weldomed the appearance and first chapter of ‘Mamnou3!’ (Arabic for ‘It’s strictly forbidden’), a new Lebanese web-series. The idea behind the series, of which there are already several filmed episodes, is to air on Youtube.com every week with an ambition to tackle the thorny issue of censorship of cultural productions inside the most infamous bureau, with a slant of comedy and parody.
Broadcasting series on YouTube isn’t exactly a novelty in the Middle East, with now more or less celebrated products such as the famous ‘Mal3obl3na’ documentary series that earned producer and blogger Feras Bagna and others time in jail when they aired a chapter about poverty in Saudi Arabia, and the series ‘Takki’ of Saudi filmmaker Mohammed Makki, dealing with topics of social life and relationships and that reached 700,000 hits within one month, mostly from people in the theaterless kingdom.
The series aims – in the words of Ayman Mehanna, director of SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom – not to denounce the censorship bureau as much as to invite to abandon principles that are no longer relevant and he adds that the project of course, is another tool to combat censorship. The storyline, written by Camille Salame, relies on real examples in order to allow the public to judge the absurdities inherent in censorship.
BikyaMasr.com – 1 July 2012:
Mamnou3: Lebanon’s censorship on trial
By Arie Amaya-Akkermans
Articles about MAMNOU3
Post-Gazette – 4 July 2012:
Lebanon Artists Confront Rise in Censorship
With a new government dominated by allies of Hezbollah, long a proxy of Syria, censorship has been on the rise. Four new films have been banned this year — a record for the Media and Theater Department, as the censorship bureau is formally called.