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SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Rights groups condemn Hezbollah threats against Lebanese journalists

Source Arab News
Thursday , 25 August 2022

Two leading international press freedom organizations have condemned recent Hezbollah threats against Lebanese journalists Mohamad Barakat and Dima Sadek.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, and Reporters without Borders (RSF), said writers in Lebanon should be allowed to express their opinions without their safety being threatened.

Barakat, managing editor of the news website Asas Media, received threats in mid-August following an interview in which he criticized a recent speech by Hassan Nasrallah, secretary-general of Hezbollah.

CPJ Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, Sherif Mansour, said: “Lebanese authorities must ensure that journalists in the country can voice their opinions and do their work freely, without fear of harassment or intimidation.

“Authorities should ensure the safety of journalist Mohamad Barakat and employees of Al-Akhbar newspaper and make it clear that members of the press should not be targeted with threats.”

After the Barakat interview, an anonymous Twitter account accused the journalist of inciting sedition, a post which was later reshared by the Hezbollah chief’s son Jawad Nasrallah.

The tweet was followed by others describing Barakat as “garbage that needs to be cleaned” and calling to silence him, saying his mouth needed to be “slammed” shut.

Meanwhile, Sadek, an anchorwoman at MTV, received death and rape threats after posting a satirical tweet about Iran’s role in the attempt on the life of British-American novelist Salman Rushdie in the US last week.

The tweet showed the title of Rushdie’s novel, “The Satanic Verses,” and a photo of Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran’s first Supreme Leader, and Qassem Soleimani, the late commander of Iran’s Quds Force.

Jawad Nasrallah also retweeted her post, accusing her of being a “tool” for foreign governments.

Sadek, a well-known critic of Hezbollah and a Shiite herself, has been the subject of many threats by the Shiite group. She was subjected to harassment by the group after her phone was stolen from her during a demonstration in 2019.

In a tweet following the threats, she said: “Since this morning, I have been subjected to a smear campaign that has gone so far as to call for my murder. I officially inform the Lebanese authorities about it by means of this tweet. I also hold Hezbollah’s leaders publicly and officially fully responsible for any harm that may now happen to me.”

In early August, a group of Hezbollah loyalists attacked Lebanese photojournalist Hasan Shaaban after videos of the protests he filmed in his hometown in the Shiite-dominated south circulated on social media.

Since then, Shaaban has received various threats from Hezbollah, including sticking a bullet to his car window and jamming a steel spike into one of the tires of his car while it was parked outside his home in a village in southern Lebanon with a note attached that read: “Leave the village, traitor, dog.”

According to RSF, around 30 Lebanese journalists have been harassed or threatened by Hezbollah members in the past two years.

In January, Hezbollah trolls launched a racist campaign against Sudanese Lebanese journalist Dalia Ahmad following a report on her show that criticized the Lebanese government, including Hezbollah leader Nasrallah.

And in October 2020, independent journalist Luna Safwan was targeted by Hezbollah in an online abuse campaign after her tweet criticizing the party was carried by an Israeli news channel and she was accused of cooperating with Israel.

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