Lebanon: ‘Naming and Shaming’ as a Duty

I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve heard the “let’s not name names” or “دون ذكر أسماء” refrain in Lebanon and feeling at a complete loss for words and hopeless, yet again, about the way this country works. When it is backed by solid evidence and not intended as childish and unsubstantiated slander, so-called “naming and shaming” or “تشهير” is about anything but curiosity. Naming and shaming is as much about equality under the law and the public spotlight, as it is about transparency and accountability.  Is there really any need to dwell on the absolute necessity of both in Lebanon at any point in time and in almost any sphere you can imagine – economic, financial, social, political, developmental, confessional, judicial even agricultural, educational and environmental?

It is towards this end that former Lebanese Minister Charbel Nahas may be making historical headway. What started – and continues – as a fight for the rights of employees of Lebanon-based supermarket Spinneys spearheaded by Nahas, has also become a fight to establish Lebanese jurisprudence for the right to “name and shame.” Nahas and his supporters have adopted the “naming and shaming is a duty” “تشهير واجب” slogan to keep pounding the point that when the facts are there, naming and shaming is a duty, and keeping silent is wrong and a crime in itself…and frankly, it should be. A brief overview of Nahas’ defense in this regard can be found here in Arabic (under “التشهير واجب… لهذه الأسباب”) drawing examples from Europe  and Lebanon, which I encourage you all to read.

Whether you like Charbel Nahas or not, admire his non-conventional style and perseverance or dismiss him as a populist with political ambitions, the consequences of his perseverance may have very positive consequences on us all. For how many times have issues of corruption, of public safety (related to rotten food or counterfeit and/or copycat medicine), embezzlement or environmental scandals been left uncovered, perpetrators left unpunished because nobody named and shamed them, because they were “politically backed” and potential accusers had no backing themselves and knew that if they were to blow the whistle or speak, they’d be dismissed as liars or prosecuted for slander? The battle for “naming and shaming” has the potential to become a reward for us all. So if I were you, I’d keep an eye on the case’s developments and support this man, his team, and his cause…

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