Reporters Without Borders has branded as harassment a 48-hour ban on news and political broadcasts on the independent New Television (NTV), in a letter to Lebanese information minister Michel Samaha. The ban began on 16 December at 15.00 hours.
"The attitude of the Lebanese authorities towards the media, in particular broadcasters, is completely unacceptable. What type of state is it that carries out harassment campaigns against some media, going so for as to slap such an absurd ban on news programmes?" said Robert Ménard, secretary general of Reporters Without Borders. "Political, legal and governmental interference in the media have increased since the indefinite closure of Murr TV last year, leaving Lebanon as a pitiful example of press freedom for Arab countries. In addition, these obstacles have a disastrous impact on the work of journalists who feel themselves more and more watched and threatened by the authorities", said Ménard.
NTV was accused by the information ministry of breaking the broadcast media law by putting out "subjective" news about the resignation of one of its presenters, Dalia Ahmad. The television suggested on 12 December that the head of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon, Gen. Roustom Ghazalé, and the director general of the Lebanese Surete Generale, Gen. Jamil Sayyed, were involved in the journalist - a Sudanese national - being refused her work permit or residence permit.
On 6 December, the owner of NTV, Tahsin Khayat, was arrested by military police for "suspected links with Israel", before being released 24-hours later. Khayat accused the intelligence services of being behind his arrest, during which he had a number of documents seized. This harassment campaign against the television, known for its critical stance towards the government, could be linked to the exhaustive cover by NTV of a criminal case involving the Al-Medina bank, in which several political figures were implicated.