New York, February 15, 2017–Lebanese authorities should immediately investigate yesterday’s attack on the independent TV channel Al-Jadeed, bring those responsible to justice, and take steps to ensure the safety of journalists operating in the country, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
A crowd of approximately 300 people, some waving flags of the Lebanese political party Amal, surrounded Al-Jadeed’s office in Beirut early yesterday evening and attacked the building with fireworks, firebombs, and rocks, the news website Ya Libnan reported. At least one police officer was lightly injured dispersing the crowd, according to press reports. Video footage posted to YouTube by Al-Jadeed journalist Ramez El-Kadi showed the building’s smashed front windows smashed and debris scattered around the entrance, as well as the remains of firebombs.
“Those who perpetrated the shameful attack on the broadcaster Al-Jadeed’s Beirut office should be brought to swift justice to show that attacks on the media will not be tolerated in Lebanon,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said from Washington, D.C. “Lebanese authorities should take steps to ensure the safety of journalists, and political leaders should unequivocally condemn any and all attacks against the press.”
Members of the crowd also hung posters depicting Lebanese Parliament Speaker and senior Amal Party leader Nabih Berri and Amal Party founder Imam Musa Al-Sadr, who went missing after a visit to Libya in 1978. Another video posted to the internet by El-Kadi, shows Amal Party supporters in front of the building chanting, “Here we are, Nabih.”
Al-Jadeed had on February 12 aired an episode of the satirical program “Douma Crazy” that referenced Al-Sadr’s disappearance. The episode featured a puppet caricature of Berri implying that the speaker had information on his disappearance. Former Lebanese lawmaker Hassan Yaaqoub was a guest on the episode. Yaaqoub’s father, Sheikh Mohammed Yaaqoub disappeared with Sadr, and Yaaqoub himself is a political opponent of Berri and has frequently been critical of him.
The episode sparked calls for a boycott from supporters of Berri and the Amal Party, the news website Al-Bawaba reported, with Amal Party lawmaker Hani Qobeissi accusing the channel of having insulted Al-Sadr.
Last night’s attack was not the first on Al-Jadeed. In July 2016, unknown assailants shot at the building. In 2012 a group of people burned tires on Al-Jadeed’s property.