At about 8:30 p.m. on January 19, 2020, Lebanese security forces arrested Nicholas Frakes, a U.S. national and freelance reporter, while he was covering protests in downtown Beirut, according to news reports and a friend of the journalist, who spoke to CPJ.
Authorities released him without charge on January 21, Frakes told CPJ via messaging app.
Protests against slow economic growth and alleged government corruption have been taking place sporadically in Beirut since October 2019, following a government move to enact new taxes on tobacco, gasoline, and digital data, according to news reports. At least two journalists were detained and several others were injured while covering protests in Beirut in early January, as CPJ reported at the time.
Agents with the General Directorate of General Security arrested Frakes while he was photographing the protests and held him in an office for several hours, according to the journalist’s friend, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing security concerns.
At about 3 a.m. on December 20, authorities transferred Frakes to the custody of the Defense Ministry for an investigation into his alleged ties to Israel, according to the friend and a statement released by the General Directorate.
General Directorate officers alleged that Frakes had live-streamed the protests for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, according to that statement. Lebanon and Israel are technically in a state of war, and Lebanese authorities have repeatedly arrested individuals for their alleged ties to Israel, according to news reports.
Haaretz, however, issued a report denying any affiliation with Frakes, and said the livestream featured on its social media accounts was supplied by the Reuters news agency. In a statement emailed to CPJ, Reuters denied that Frakes filmed that livestream.
Defense Military officials questioned Frakes about his alleged ties to Haaretz, held him over night, and then released him without charge, the friend said.
Frakes had covered the protests for the independent news website Al-Monitor and the London-based news website Al-Araby al-Jadeed, according to his author pages on each website.