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Beirut 18/6/2010

Press release

Censorship Strikes Again;


Al-Madina Theatre reopens today

Yesterday evening, the 17th of June, 2010, 15 members of the security forces
raided Al-Madina Theatre in Hamra-Beirut in their military uniforms and
machine guns, and prevented a Belgian troupe from performing their play
„Oublie la voiture!” [Forget The Car!] The play is based on three scripts
written by the Lebanese novelist Rashid al-Daif.
Following intensive calls between the theatre officials and the authorities
concerned, the play will be allowed to be shown today.
The script was sent to the General Security ten days earlier, and the play was
approved under the title „Meryl Streep‟. However, the theatre‟s director
Nidal Ashkar felt that there is a need to change the name of the play, as
another play entitled “Let Meryl Streep Do Whatever She Wants‟ had
already been performed there. In order that the audience does not become
confused and believe that it is the same play, the new play had to be thus
renamed. After prolonged stalling in obtaining the official approval, the
theatre‟s officials were told to „do whatever they want‟…but when the
performance started, a security force came to the theatre and demanded that
it be stopped, or the theatre would be forced shut.
In a conversation with SKeyes, Ashkar said: “despite the fact that they – at
the General Security – were cooperative with us before, they dragged their
feet in giving us the approval for the play this time. They did not notify us of
their decision to ban it until we sent someone over there to follow up the
matter, perhaps because they were concerned that the press might sense
something”. She also noted that “the security forces came to the theatre on
the next day of the performance, and asked for it to be stopped from being
shown. The forces confirmed that troops will be sent at five o‟clock in the
afternoon of the next day to ascertain that the play was not shown;
otherwise, the theatre would be forced shut”.
She added in a reproaching manner: “how can they threaten to close the
theatre? Who reads the scripts and decides that he is the good citizen that has
the right to tell us what we can show?” She then rejected censorship over
theatrical plays and said: “Are the three objectionable phrases what is

Samir Kassir Foundation, Aref Saghieh Bldg.( Ground Floor), 63, Zahrani St., Sioufi, Achrafieh, Beirut, Lebanon
Tel /Fax: 00961 1 397334, Mobile: 00961 3 372717, E-Mail Address: info@skeyesmedia.org
poisoning Lebanon, when this country is open for brothels, drugs and
smuggling…?”
Ashkar also pointed out that there were intensive calls to allow the
performance of the play to take place today, and that the Interior Minister
Ziad Baroud had an active role that ultimately helped obtain the approval for
this.
The play was performed two days ago, and it was scheduled to continue
until June 20. The Moroccan-Belgian director Rahim Lasri and his troupe
were not given the permission to perform until they got on stage yesterday,
and the play that is celebrated by theatres in Paris and Brussels since 2008
was thus banned.
The SKeyes Centre for Media and Cultural Freedom – a part of the Samir
Kassir Foundation – condemns censorship over artistic works and the
uncivilized treatment of the artists and their works, something that does not
reflect the civilized image that Lebanon boasts, or the freedom of expression
and opinion as sanctioned by the Constitution.
SKeyes would also like to point out that the books on which parts of the play
were based upon, are already available in Lebanese and Arab bookstores and
libraries; hence, it is odd that such censorship against this play is taking
place, especially when these take on another dimension when they become
embedded in theatrical works, and that when they are used in the right
context, they carry a social and humanistic message. SKeyes also demands
that the Ottoman law in place be changed as this law still considers theatres
to be night clubs.

Samir Kassir Foundation, Aref Saghieh Bldg.( Ground Floor), 63, Zahrani St., Sioufi, Achrafieh, Beirut, Lebanon
Tel /Fax: 00961 1 397334, Mobile: 00961 3 372717, E-Mail Address: info@skeyesmedia.org