Urgent Matters Judge Nadim Zwein orders Al-Akhbar to remove ‘AUB Leaks’ story

Al-Akhbar is currently going through a transitional phase whereby the English website is available for Archival purposes only. All new content will be published in Arabic on the main website (www.al-akhbar.com).

Al-Akhbar Management

A photograph of the American University of Beirut campus taken in September 2006. Al-Akhbar / Bilal Jawich

Published Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Judge of Urgent Matters in Beirut, Nadim Zwein, issued an order (from his home) Wednesday, compelling Al-Akhbar to remove a report on the ‘AUB Leaks’ scandal titled, “Will allegations of corruption at AUB go to US courts?” published on November 14, 2014, and all documents linked to in the story from the newspaper’s website.

Judge Zwein’s decision follows a request made by the American University in Beirut (AUB), dated November 17, 2014, through its lawyer Randa Shaker Abu Suleiman from the Abu Suleiman Law Firm. AUB said that Al-Akhbar, in the report in question, had published “confidential internal documents, memos, and correspondence belonging to AUB.”

By doing so, AUB acknowledged the authenticity of the documents, and even acknowledged the presence of 1,000 documents comprising 1,220 pages that have the same classification. AUB requested that these documents remain undisclosed, despite the fact that they contain valuable information on how one of the top universities in Lebanon operates.

Judge Zwein justified his decision to approve AUB’s request by stating, “It does not appear from the case that the flagrant abuse (a term used by the university) is justified by [serving] an exceptional public interest that would vitiate the jurisdiction of the Court for Urgent Matters to intervene to stop the infringement.”

This is while bearing in mind that Al-Akhbar, in its response to Judge Zwein before he issued his order, highlighted the link between the story it broke and other scandals surrounding certain practices in AUB’s administration which violate the laws and regulations in force and harm the quality of higher education and students’ interests.

It is worth noting that Al-Akhbar was not informed of any lawsuit involving the issue at the heart of the revelations, meaning that the AUB administration does not challenge the credibility of the report it requested to be taken down.

So far, AUB has only resorted to the courts to get arbitrary rulings that undermine the freedom of the press and the public’s right to access relevant information. Al-Akhbar note that Judge Zwein used Article 581 of the penal code (related to disclosing confidential information), stipulating that any person “who deliberately destroys or discloses a letter or cable not intended for him, or accesses illicitly a phone conversation, shall be punished with a fine not exceeding 100,000 Lebanese lira ($66). The same penalty applies to anyone accessing messages, cables, or phone communications, the dissemination of which causes harm to another party and shares it with a party it is not intended for.”

Although this article is related to the disclosure of “personal secrets without a legitimate reason,” with the intention of using this to achieve “personal gains or benefit another party,” Judge Zwein used it as the basis of his ruling. This is inconsistent with the logic behind the court of “urgent matters,” whereas the judge ruled in absolute terms that Al-Akhbar does not have the right to publish confidential correspondence and internal memos belonging to the plaintiff (AUB) online and on social media, “regardless of how these correspondences and memos were obtained.”

The full text of Judge Zwein’s can be read below:

First: To compel Al-Akhbar Beirut SAL to remove the article titled ‘AUB Leaks’ published on November 14, 2014 with the links from its website immediately, and to block it permanently and refrain from publishing the links again under penalty of paying a fine of 40 million LL (~$26,666) for each day the violation of the order continues.

Second: To compel Mr. Hussein Mahdi to remove the article mentioned in the clause ‘First’ in this order and its links from his Facebook page and any account he has on any other social media site, and refrain from publishing it again under penalty of a fine of 20 million LL (~$13,333) for each day the violation of the order continues.

Third: The judicial assistant Ghassan Mashlab shall be tasked with informing Al-Akhbar Beirut SAL and Mr. Hussein Mahdi immediately and overseeing the implementation [of the order], and assign expert Fouad Aqiqi to oversee the implementation for a week using all technical methods available and to submit a report after this period, providing that the plaintiff pay an advance of 200,000 LL ($133) for the expenses of the clerk and 300,000 LL ($200) for the expenses of the expert.

(Al-Akhbar)

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

This is a good sign
You are getting to them
Congratulations
There is always more than one way to skin a cat - even a feral cat.
Respect is earned by strange & miraculous deeds man - go figure you can't just put on a nice suit & be the man.

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