New York, November 29, 2021 – Lebanese authorities should drop their prosecution of journalist Radwan Mortada and refrain from imprisoning members of the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On November 26, the Permanent Military Court in Beirut sentenced Mortada, a reporter for the local daily Al-Akhbar and the news website The Cradle, to thirteen months imprisonment for allegedly insulting the military, according to news reports, reports by Mortada’s employers, and the Beirut-based press freedom group Skeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom.
The journalist was not present at the court hearing and has not been detained, according to those sources.
“The Lebanese military has no business trying and sentencing a journalist for simply reporting on the flawed investigation into the 2020 Beirut port blast, especially when there already exists a court specifically established to adjudicate freedom of expression cases,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa representative, Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “Lebanese authorities should refrain from imprisoning Radwan Mortada, refer this case to the Publications Court, and allow journalists to do their jobs freely and without fear of retaliation.”
The charges stem from a January 9 interview Mortada gave to the local broadcaster Al-Jadeed, in which he criticized Lebanese authorities’ handling of the Beirut port explosion and criticized the army for failing to prevent it.
In an interview on Al-Jadeed on November 26, Mortada said that he had not been notified of the date of the trial, and that he objected to being tried before a military court. He said he would appeal the sentence and request that the case be transferred to the Publications Court.
CPJ emailed the Lebanese Army for comment, but did not immediately receive any reply.