Lebanon Bans Grindr For Second Time In 2019

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Lebanon’s Telecommunications Ministry has blocked access to Grindr on the country’s state-owned internet service provider, sparking concern amongst activists, allies and human rights organizations.

The local Daily Star newspaper was the first outlet to report on the ban. The Telecommunications Ministry reportedly sent a memo to Lebanese internet service providers ordering them to block the app. Within several days, users found they could not access Grindr over the state-run ISP Ogero. Amnesty International obtained confirmation from an official source at the ministry that a ban had indeed been put into effect.

Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director Lynn Maalouf issued a statement in response to the news:

“The decision to ban Grindr in Lebanon is a deeply regressive step and a blow for the human rights of the local LGBTI community. As well as being a flagrant assault on the right to freedom of expression, this move will serve to entrench and legitimize homophobic views within the country.

No one should face discrimination or punishment for their sexual orientation. Instead of blocking apps used by the gay community, the Lebanese authorities should immediately revoke this ban and focus their efforts on ending their crackdown against LGBTI people.”

Many fear the Grindr ban signals a growing crackdown on the Lebanese LGBT+ community. The country has long been considered more liberal and more accepting of gay culture than elsewhere in the Middle East, but the blocking of the app is the latest in a series of moves by authorities to limit the rights of LGBT+ people in Lebanon. A little over a year ago, Internal Security forces also banned activities organized by LGBT+ activists to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

“This is not an independent incident, this is part of a bigger campaign and strategy to limit the spaces of the LGBT community,” Georges Azzi, executive director of the Arab Foundation For Freedoms and Equality, told The Independent. “The groups behind this campaign operate in an atmosphere where the government and security apparatuses are encouraging attacks on freedom of expression. We are being controlled by medieval forces.”

Media outlets reported a similar ban of Grindr in January of this year. At the time, the government denied involvement and access was soon restored.

Lebanese LGBT+ advocacy organization Helem responded to the recent ban with a post on Facebook. “This is a gross violation of personal rights and freedoms,” says the post. “We were not deterred by previous bans and we shall not be deterred by this one, and we shall always continue our steady and stubborn march towards equality and inclusion.” The group advised Grindr users to use a secure VPN service to circumvent the ban while it remains in place.