Terrorist Hezbollah is threatening Lebanese journalists for covering the protesters. The journalists are facing threats and wide-ranging harassment to include verbal insults and physical attacks, even death threats. Reporting on nearly 50 days of anti-government protests, despite Lebanon’s reputation as a haven for free speech, the journalists are beginning to experience what the Iranian media experiences daily.
TEHRAN IS HEZBOLLAH’S ULTIMATE PUPPET MASTER
Nationwide demonstrations erupted on Oct. 17 over a plunging economy. They quickly grew into calls for sweeping aside Lebanon’s entire ruling elite. Local media outlets — some of which represent the sectarian interests protesters are looking to overthrow — are now largely seen as pro- or anti-protests, with some journalists feeling pressured to leave their workplaces over disagreements about media coverage.
The deteriorating situation for journalists in Lebanon comes despite its decades-old reputation for being an island of free press in the Arab world. Amid Lebanon’s divided politics, media staff have usually had wide range to freely express their opinions; unlike in other countries in the region where the state stifles the media.
The acts of harassment began early in the protests. Hezbollah thugs attacked MTV television reporter Nawal Berry in central Beirut in the first days of the demonstrations. They smashed the camera, robbed the microphone she was holding, spat on her and kicked her in the leg.
Berry told The Associated Press:
How is it possible that a journalist today goes to report and gets subjected to beating and humiliation? Where are we? Lebanon is the country of freedoms and democracy.
Berry may have realized Hezbollah does Iran’s bidding, in the interests of Iran, not Lebanon.
HEZBOLLAH IS THREATENING LEBANESE JOURNALISTS
Outlets like MTV are widely seen as backing protesters’ demands that Lebanon’s sectarian political system be completely overturned to end decades of corruption and mismanagement.
Rival TV stations and newspapers portray the unrest as playing into the hands of alleged plots to undermine Hezbollah. The terror organization, Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement and the Amal Movement of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri run many of those outlets. These media regularly blast protesters for closing roads and using other civil disobedience tactics, describing them as “bandits.”
For Berry, the media environment worsened as the unrest continued. On the night of Nov. 24, while she was covering clashes between protesters and Hezbollah and Amal supporters on a central road in Beirut, Hezbollah and Amal thugs chased her into a building. She hid there until police came and escorted her out.
I was doing my job and will continue to do so. I have passed through worse periods and was able to overcome them.
HEZBOLLAH THUGS TARGET JOURNALISTS
Hezbollah thugs also targeted Dima Sadek, who resigned last month as an anchorwoman at LBC TV. She blamed the Hezbollah thugs for stealing her smartphone while she was filming protests. They followed by insulting and threatening her mother, who suffered a stroke as a result of the stress.
Sadek, who is a harsh critic of Hezbollah, said:
I have taken a decision (to be part of the protests) and I am following it. I have been waiting for this moment all my life and I have always been against the political, sectarian and corrupt system in Lebanon. In my heart, I know very well that this will have repercussions on my personal and professional life. I will go to the end no matter what the price is
On Friday night, social media circulated a video of a Shiite cleric harshly criticizing Sadek during a sermon in southern Lebanon. He described her as a person “fighting God and his prophet”. The cleric then says Sadek is a bandit and that according to Islamic law, she should be either “crucified” or have her right arm and left leg amputated or be sent into exile.
When asked about the video, Sadek said:
EVEN HEZBOLLAH JOURNALISTS ARE QUITTING
Joy Slim, who quit as culture writer at the pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar after more than five years, said she did so after being “disappointed” with the daily’s coverage of the demonstrations. She released a video widely circulated on social media that ridiculed those who accuse the protesters of being American agents.
Sami Kleib, a prominent Lebanese journalist with a wide following around the Middle East, resigned from Al-Mayadeen last month. He said the reason behind his move was that he was “closer to the people than the authorities.”
Kleib told AP:
The Lebanese media is similar to politics in Lebanon where there is division between two axes: One that supports the idea of conspiracy theory, and another that fully backs the protest movement with its advantages and disadvantages.
AP contributed to this article.