Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns today’s targeted physical attacks on journalists in several Lebanese cities including Beirut, the northern city of Tripoli and the southern city of Sidon, during violent protests that followed the announcement that a Hezbollah-backed candidate has been appointed prime minister.
The press freedom organization urges Lebanon’s politicians to appeal for calm and to ask their supporters to respect the media’s work. At the same time, the Lebanese authorities must do everything possible to ensure that journalists can operate safely. The media, for their part, have a duty to remain neutral, especially at a time of great political tension.
Journalists working for the Doha-based satellite TV station Al Jazeera, regarded by protesters as sympathetic to Hezbollah, and the Lebanese station New TV were attacked in Tripoli. Supporters of outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri set fire to an Al Jazeera vehicle and to the office of a Tripoli parliamentary representative where the journalists had sought refuge. Lebanese army troops eventually evacuated the building.
Mohamed Al-Saheli, a cameraman with the National Information Agency, was attacked by demonstrators in the Beirut district of Cola while stones were thrown at a crew with the Lebanese TV station NBN in the Beirut district of Tariq Al-Jadid. NBN correspondent Rasha Alzain was roughed up and some of the station’s equipment was destroyed.
The violence was prompted by today’s appointment of Najib Mikati, a Hezbollah-backed candidate from Tripoli, to the post of prime minister replacing Saad Hariri. The move followed the resignation of 11 Hezbollah minister’s from Hariri’s government on 12 January
The son of Rafiq Hariri, a former prime minister who was assassinated in February 2005, Saad Hariri had already announced that his party, the Movement of the Future, would not join any government led by a Hezbollah-backed prime minister.