Lebanon: Decision to cancel Mashrou’ Leila concert an alarming indicator of the state of freedom of expression

Responding to a statement issued by the organizers of the Byblos International Festival stating they were forced to cancel a performance by the band Mashrou’ Leila, that was due to take place on 9 August, “to prevent bloodshed and maintain security and stability”, following a hate campaign targeting the group , Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director Lynn Maalouf said:

“This decision is a devastating blow for the right to freedom of expression in the country and exposes the Lebanese authorities’ abdication of their responsibility to ensure that the band was protected amid a mounting hate campaign.

“This is the direct result of the government’s failure to take a strong stand against hatred and discrimination and to put in place the necessary measures to ensure the performance could go ahead.

“Mashrou’ Leila played the same songs at the same venue only three years ago. The fact that they are now unable to perform amidst calls of hatred and violence is an alarming indicator of the deterioration of the situation with regards to freedom of expression in the country.”

Mashrou’ Leila are known for their songs tackling social issues in the Arab world and are vocal supporters of the right to freedom of expression.