Politicians, Journalists Voice Solidarity with Lebanese Daily Critical of Iran
Politicians and journalists voiced solidarity on Monday with a Lebanese newspaper that had criticized Iran’s growing influence in Lebanon through its Hezbollah party.
The Nidaa al-Watan daily had published a headline reading, “New ambassadors in Baabda… Welcome to the Khamenei republic.” The move resulted in a summons to the criminal investigations bureau.
The Press Syndicate condemned on Monday the prosecution of journalists by the bureau, saying only the Press Offenses Court has such authority.
After a meeting to discuss the development, syndicate chief Aouni al-Kaaki said that political authorities have recently started to resort to judicial powers to hold the press to account.
“They seem to forget or neglect the fact that the only the Press Offenses Court has the legal jurisdiction to put journalists and free-thinkers to trial,” he added, referring to a law issued in in 1977 on the matter.
Moreover, he said punishments are usually financial fines. “It is unacceptable to imprison any journalist,” he stressed.
He therefore, demanded that cases related to the press and freedom of expression be referred to the Press Offenses Court.
Editor-in-Chief of the Nidaa al-Watan, Beshara Charbel said that he was aware that the publication of the critical headline would have ramifications. “We were not however, aware that the authority would have such little patience and prompt a summons to the criminal investigations bureau.”
“They feared that the truth about the violation of the state’s sovereignty would be revealed and that we would expose the ongoing complicity between the state and statelet. Indeed, we spoke out to prevent the statelet from swallowing the state whole,” he added.
He acknowledged that the “professional and political path we have chosen to defend the sovereignty and the state would leave us vulnerable to criticism.”
Defending the article, Charbel said it made references to declared statements that said any attack on Iran would drag the region and Lebanon to war. It also said that the decision to go to war did not lie in Beirut, but in Tehran.
“They have grown tired of direct criticism that refuses to place a halo above officials and chooses to instead put them on trial before the public opinion,” he noted.
The summoning to the investigation bureau is an attempt to bring the free press to heel, he lamented.
Social Affairs Minister Richard Kouyoumjian said that he attended the meeting in a show of support to political and press freedoms and freedom of expression.
“The least we can do is stand by Nidaa al-Watan. We have lost everything and we are only left with freedom. Its headline did not criticize the presidential term, but was only stating facts,” he said, adding that those responsible for the state of affairs in Lebanon should be held to account instead.