On March 14, 2014, TV host Dima Sadeq interviewed blogger Imad Bazzi on the Lebanese LBC TV channel, but repeatedly interrupted him with cautions that certain topics were off limits. The show was cut short after several minutes to protest the curbing of freedom of speech in the media.
Following are excerpts:
Dima Sadeq: In order to discuss the latest domestic developments in Lebanon, we have blogger Imad Bazzi with us. Good morning.
Imad Bazzi: Good morning.
Dima Sadeq: How do you view the political scene today, on the ninth anniversary of the March 14 demonstration?
Imad Bazzi: Today is the ninth anniversary of when the Lebanese gathered in the square...
Dima Sadeq: Excuse me, it’s my mistake. I should have asked you at the beginning of the show not to touch on any religious topic, especially with regard to Islam. As you know full well, the Shiite Higher Islamic Council has a problem with this TV channel, and it has threatened to sue us, because of a mistake we made. So we want to make sure not to repeat this mistake.
Go ahead, I apologize for interrupting you.
Imad Bazzi: So we’ve been talking about the March 14 anniversary, and about the nine years that have passed since the day that changed the political scene...
Dima Sadeq: I sincerely apologize, Imad, but we must not deal with any topic related to Christianity. As you may know, the Catholic Council has become very active these days, and it is preventing any deviation from the moral values of our society. So let’s not talk about anything that has to do with that, because it might spoil the atmosphere. Go ahead.
Imad Bazzi: Let’s go back to the ninth anniversary of the March 14 demonstration. The people that took to the streets demanded change, liberation, and sovereignty...
Dima Sadeq: As long as we are talking politics...
Imad Bazzi: Is something else forbidden?
Dima Sadeq: We should avoid talking about President Michel Suleiman, because as you know, General Ashraf Rifi has become Minister of Justice, and he will no longer allow the reckless violations of the past. He is about to file charges against journalist Ibrahim Al-Amin, because he dared to criticize the president. I know that you have an opinion on all that, so please don’t mention it until the show ends – especially since you have a history of arrests. How many times were you arrested?
Imad Bazzi: Ten times. Isn’t that enough?
Dima Sadeq: You were arrested by the bureau fighting information crime?
Imad Bazzi: Yes, I was interrogated there yesterday.
Dima Sadeq: So you are an information criminal now?
Imad Bazzi: An electronic criminal. A dangerous one.
Dima Sadeq: How many countries have a bureau for fighting electronic crime? Not in Egypt or other Arab countries. Maybe in the Gulf?
Imad Bazzi: Yes, it exists in the Gulf. I wish we had in Lebanon the kind of freedom of speech they have in the Gulf.
Dima Sadeq: I apologize again for interrupting you. Let’s go back to our main topic of the March 14 anniversary. Go ahead.
Imad Bazzi: You’ve left me nothing to talk about.
Dima Sadeq: Let me just ask you not to talk about any Lebanese politicians, and especially not about Minister Gebran Bassil, who has recently sued the Executive magazine, for asking him about $33 million which got lost in the Energy Ministry. He said that he didn’t know anything about it, but that it was not important, and when the paper published this, he sued it. So I hope that we can exercise responsible journalism, and not discuss issues that...
Imad Bazzi: Fine, we won’t talk about the $33 million.
Dima Sadeq: And also, let’s not say anything about the Lebanese Forces. As you know, Dr. Samir Geagea has an extensive record of suing newspapers.
But people don’t say anything about corruption. As you know, our colleague Riad Kobaissi tried to raise the issue of corruption in the customs department, and he is still suffering from a concussion. So let’s not talk about it.
Imad Bazzi: Sure. There is absolutely no corruption there. The customs is a very stable and honest department.
Dima Sadeq: One last thing. Let’s not talk about the Lebanese judiciary, because as you know, our colleague Muhammad Nazzal, from Al-Akhbar, proved, with evidence, that Judge Randa Yaqzan was covering up narcotic crimes. She was demoted, but even so, Nazzal and Al-Akhbar were fined $12 million, because no one should act so irresponsibly...
Imad Bazzi: Of course.
Dima Sadeq: Go ahead.
Imad Bazzi: What should I talk about?
Dima Sadeq: I’m sorry I am being so difficult. There is one issue that we can discuss freely, thank god, with no censorship. We can talk as much as we want about Hizbullah and the resistance.
Imad Bazzi: And their weapons...
Dima Sadeq: Right. On this issue, there is no self-censorship. Go ahead and say whatever you like about it.
Imad Bazzi: Although I appreciate your allowing me to discuss this important issue – there is a consensus about this issue, and nobody gets upset about it – I don’t want to talk about it. I think I’ll pass.
Dima Sadeq: So we’ve agreed not to talk about Islam, about Christianity, about politics, about the president, about several political parties, about corruption, about the judiciary, about the customs...
I’d like to thank the honorable electronic criminal, blogger Imad Bazzi, for being with us. This is the end of our show today.
Imad Bazzi: Thank you for having me. I hope the viewers found it useful...
Dima Sadeq: For sure. Today’s show was very useful.
Dear viewers, this is the end of our show this morning. Thank you for watching us. Have a good day.
Technician off-screen: Are you sure?
Dima Sadeq: Yes, that’s the end of the show. There’s nothing to talk about.
Title: “This is what they want your screen to look like, but we refuse”
“Our show is not aired today in protest of the pressure exerted on the media”
MEMRI TV adds: This title was kept on the screen for an hour and nine minutes