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Violations against Journalists and Photographers During the First Week of Lebanon Protests
October 23, 2019

The whirlwind of events made it difficult for the SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom to contact all journalists covering the protests across the country to get details about the violations they faced on the ground, especially as the majority of them continued their work despite the abuse or moved to cover protests in other regions. Yet, SKeyes was able to monitor violations against journalists, photographers and protesters who were trying to document the demonstrations. The violations, which were carried out by security forces, supporters of Lebanese parties or even demonstrators, included physical assault, prevention from filming, harassment, threats, destruction of equipment, and the dismissal of National News Agency (NNA) director Laure Sleiman.

Violations started on October 18, which marked the second day of protests. Demonstrators gathered in main streets and squares in different regions around Lebanon, marching against corruption, demanding the resignation of public officials, and asking to recover stolen public funds. From the very first minute, the Lebanese media provided live coverage of the protests in the different regions. Security forces beat Al-Jadeed cameraman Mohammad Al-Samra during a live coverage in Riad Solh square alongside reporter Ramzi Al-Qadi. Also, protesters assaulted MTV crew members, Joyce Akiki and Christian Abi Nader, before breaking their cameras in downtown Beirut, while LBCI reporter Hoda Chedid was jostled when the security forces were trying to disperse the demonstrators in Baabda. Also, filmmaker and activist Raneen Keserwani was beaten by security agents during an attack against the protesters next to the Grand Serail; her mobile phone was also broken.

On October 19, security forces prevented photographers from covering the clashes between the parents of protesters who were arrested and detained at the Helou security center and security agents in the Mar Elias neighborhood in Beirut. Also, Amal Movement supporters threatened to attack an Al-Jadeed channel crew comprising reporter Joyce Hajj Moussa and photographer Mohammad Barbar, before expelling them from Tyre. They also threatened to set fire to Al-Jadeed offices if the channel criticizes the Amal Movement while covering the protests or if its correspondents decided to cover developments in Tyre.

On October 20, a number of young people on motorbikes tried to prevent Al-Arabiya channel correspondent, Rima Maktabi, from providing a live coverage of the protest in Riad Solh square, while MTV reporter Joyce Akiki was harassed by singer Wadih El Sheikh’s bodyguards during a live coverage in the same square.

On October 21, the protesters bullied OTV correspondent Joelle Bou Younes in Riad Solh square, before spraying her and the channel’s camera several times with water. Also, the head of the Presidential Palace media office, Rafic ChElala, prevented Annahar correspondent, Iskandar Khashasho, from covering Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s speech live on Annahar’s Facebook page.

Also, Information Minister Jamal Jarrah dismissed the director of the state-owned National News Agency, Laure Sleiman, and appointed Ziad Harfouche instead. The dismissal is believed to be linked to NNA's coverage of the ongoing mass protests.

On Wednesday, October 23, Lebanese soldiers banned journalists, photographers and protesters from filming while the army was trying to open the roads of Zouk Mikhael, Jal El-Dib and Nahr El-Kalb by force in the early morning. A soldier even broke the phone of one of the protesters who was trying to film what was happening.