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Security forces are seen in east Beirut, Lebanon, on May 9, 2019. Security forces recently raided the Beirut office of Al-Akhbar newspaper. (AP/Hassan Ammar)

Lebanese security forces raid Beirut office of Al-Akhbar newspaper

May 22, 2019 11:09 AM ET

On May 8, 2019, Lebanese state security forces raided the office of the independent Beirut-based daily newspaper Al-Akhbar, according to news reports, the regional press freedom group Skeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom, and a report by Al-Akhbar Deputy Editor Pierre Abi Saab.

The agents confiscated footage from the building's security cameras and inquired about the address of Ibrahim al-Amine, Al-Akhbar's editor-in-chief, but did not arrest anyone or take anything else, according to those reports.

"Security forces stormed into the Al-Akhbar office in the Concorde Building in Beirut and requested from the management the footage of the CCTV cameras," Abi Saab wrote in his report. "The managers of Al-Akhbar complied and provided them with footage of the past three days. They complained about the short memory span of the surveillance cameras and left."

It is unclear whether the agents obtained al-Amine's address; CPJ emailed Al-Akhbar for comment but did not receive a response.

In his report, Abi Saab said he believes the raid was a response to the newspaper's recent publication of leaked diplomatic cables between the Lebanese Embassy in Washington, D.C., and the Lebanese Foreign Ministry. Under the title "Washington Leaks," Al-Akhbar published the leaked diplomatic cables on its website on April 15 and April 24.

On May 6, state security forces raided the Lebanese Foreign Ministry building to conduct an investigation into the leaked cables, following a complaint filed by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil with the country's attorney general, Judge Ziad Abu Haidar, according to news reports and a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry.

In a statement cited by news reports, the General Directorate of State Security, which is in charge of the state security forces, said that the raid was part of an investigation launched by the judiciary.

CPJ emailed the Lebanese General Directorate of State Security and the Foreign Ministry for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

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