Newspaper director’s car set on fire

JANUARY 20, 2008
Posted February 15, 2008

Aziz al-Matni, Al-Anbaa

Al-Matni, director-in-charge of the weekly newspaper Al-Anbaa, told CPJ he was surprised by a wildfire threatening his home in Matn district’s Qornet Shehwan, approximately 10 miles from the capital, Beirut, around 12:30 a.m. His car, a blue Mitsubishi Lancer, had been set on fire. A nearby fire precinct responded quickly, preventing the fire from spreading to his home, he said.

Authorities quickly launched an investigation into the incident.

Al-Matni told CPJ he did not believe the arson attack targeted him specifically, but rather that it was a message for the paper and its owner, Walid Jumblatt, a powerful Druze leader and head of Lebanon’s Progressive Socialist Party.

On January 8, Al-Matni wrote a highly critical article titled “The hidden paper and the pocket with the hole: No forced partnership and no governing with sabotage and traps.” He told CPJ that the article criticized opposition groups in Lebanon for using force, threats, and intimidation to impose their will on the majority. The article, he said, may have been a reason for the attack, but he maintained his firm belief that the incident was intended to deliver a message to Jumblatt.

As director-in-charge, al-Matni is legally responsible for all the content published by the paper.