New York, January 27, 2021 — Lebanese authorities must conduct a thorough and independent investigation into the recent attack on journalist Ibrahim Fatfat, and ensure that those responsible are held to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On January 25, a group of riot police officers with Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces assaulted Fatfat, a reporter with the independent news website Sawt Beirut International, while he was covering a protest over worsening living standards in the northern city of Tripoli, according to reports by Fatfat’s employer, footage of the assault posted on social media, and a report by the Skeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom, a regional press freedom group.
“Journalists in Lebanon should not fear the risk of being singled out and brutally attacked by security officers when covering protests,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “Authorities must immediately investigate the assault of Ibrahim Fatfat and take steps to ensure that the press can cover protests without fear that police will turn on them.”
A riot police officer first tried to prevent Fatfat from filming the protest on Tripoli’s Al-Nour Square, so the journalist moved to a different area and continued working, he told his employer in an interview.
A group of officers then approached Fatfat and lured him away from the protest, and three began attacking him, according to that interview and the footage of the assault shared on social media.
Other officers arrived on the scene and a large group of them dragged Fatfat, hit him with their truncheons, kicked him in the head, and broke his camera, according to those sources.
Fatfat said in the interview that the officers knew he was a member of the press, and yelled insults against him, his employer, and Jerry Maher, the chairman of Sawt Beirut International.
Fatfat lost consciousness during the attack, and woke up at the emergency unit of the Albert Haykel Hospital, after being brought there by an ambulance, according to that interview and a video shared on social media of the journalist being evacuated from the scene.
Today, the Lebanese Red Cross said that at least 45 people had been injured amid the protests in Tripoli, according to reports.
CPJ emailed Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces for comment, but did not immediately receive any reply.