April 12, 2001
His Excellency Emile Lahoud
President of the Republic of Lebanon
c/o His Excellency Dr. Farid Abboud
Embassy of Lebanon
2560 28th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
VIA FACSIMILE: + 202-939-6324
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply concerned about your government's ongoing harassment of Samir Qassir, a journalist who writes for the Beirut daily Al-Nahar.
On March 28, Lebanese security authorities seized Qassir's passport at Beirut Airport upon his arrival from Amman, where he had been covering the Arab summit. The authorities told Qassir, who is a Lebanese citizen born of naturalized Lebanese parents, that they wished to verify the passport's validity.
Although Qassir's passport was returned yesterday, authorities warned that his case was still under investigation. According to our sources in Beirut, security agents have been trailing Qassir for the past several days.
CPJ believes that Qassir is being harassed in response to his journalistic work, in particular a March 16 editorial that strongly criticized the Lebanese armed forces and security services.
Our organization last wrote to you on July 7, 2000, expressing similar concern about the case of Raghida Dergham, the New York bureau chief for the London-based daily Al-Hayat. Dergham's passport was cancelled on arrival at Beirut Airport on June 19, 2000.
Lebanese authorities claimed that Dergham had violated Lebanese law by participating in a Washington, D.C. discussion panel that also included an Israeli official. It was widely believed, however, that your government acted in reprisal for Dergham's critical reporting on Lebanon's dispute with the United Nations over the demarcation of the Lebanese-Israeli border. (Dergham's passport was returned in late July, 2000.)
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide, CPJ calls on the government of Lebanon to cease its unjustified harassment of Samir Qassir.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to a reply at your earliest convenience.
Ann K. Cooper