Photo via Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor

Members of Lebanese press summoned for questioning

Editors from two independent media outlets were summoned for questioning by different Lebanese security agencies this week.

Jean Kassir, co-founder of Megaphone, was intercepted on Thursday by members of Lebanon’s State Security while driving his car, instead of being notified at his home or workplace.

After Megaphone’s lawyer attended the questioning, it was revealed that Public Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat issued an order to investigate the outlet’s owners over a post they shared on March 1st, in which they called out Lebanese authority figures wanted in various judicial cases, including Oueidat.

Prior to this incident, the only official to have mentioned wanting to sue Megaphone in the past was Minister of Justice Henry Khoury in January, who accused the website of falsely accusing him of “leading the coup” against Beirut Blast probe investigator Tarek Bitar. Nothing else is known about Khoury’s move against Megaphone.

Lara Bitar, Editor in Chief of the Public Source, was contacted on Friday by the Cybercrimes Bureau, summoning her for investigation next week. The summoning was on behalf of the Lebanese Forces, one of Lebanon’s main political parties and a former civil war militia.

The Public Source says the Lebanese Forces were “angered” by an article published in August that tackled environmental crimes committed during and after the Lebanese Civil War. The article says that the Lebanese Forces, who controlled Beirut port for a while during the war, “allowed international chemical companies to use Lebanon as a toxic waste dump in exchange for $22 million.”

“I don’t think this is necessarily a deviation from the way the state treats independent journalists or independent media organizations,” Bitar told Beirut Today.

Beirut Today would like to send its solidarity to Megaphone and The Public Source, as the social, political, and economic crises Lebanon is facing requires the presence of strong and daring independent media outlets to enforce transparency and accountability.