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Black day for media in Lebanon as protesters target Al-Jazeera

Caught in between: Angry protesters destroy a van belonging to Al-Jazeera in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011. Thousands of Sunnis waved flags, burned tires and torched a van belonging to Al-Jazeera on Tuesday during a "day of rage" to protest gains by the Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

Targeted physical attacks were carried out Tuesday on journalists in several Lebanese cities including Beirut, the northern city of Tripoli and the southern city of Sidon, during violent protests that followed the announcement that a Hezbollah-backed candidate has been appointed prime minister, according to Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF).

The press freedom organisation urged Lebanon’s politicians to appeal for calm and to ask their supporters to respect the media’s work. At the same time, the Lebanese authorities must do everything possible to ensure that journalists can operate safely. The media, for their part, have a duty to remain neutral, especially at a time of great political tension.

Journalists working for the Doha-based satellite TV station Al-Jazeera, regarded by protesters as sympathetic to Hezbollah, and the Lebanese station New TV were attacked in Tripoli. Supporters of outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri set fire to an Al-Jazeera vehicle and to the office of a Tripoli parliamentary representative where the journalists had sought refuge. Lebanese army troops eventually evacuated the building.

Mohamed Al-Saheli, a cameraman with the National Information Agency, was attacked by demonstrators in the Beirut district of Cola while stones were thrown at a crew with the Lebanese TV station NBN in the Beirut district of Tariq Al-Jadid. NBN correspondent Rasha Alzain was roughed up and some of the station’s equipment was destroyed. The violence was prompted by Tuesday’s appointment of Najib Mikati, a Hezbollah-backed candidate from Tripoli, to the post of prime minister replacing Saad Hariri. The move followed the resignation of 11 Hezbollah minister’s from Hariri’s government on January 12.

The son of Rafiq Hariri, a former prime minister who was assassinated in February 2005, Saad Hariri had already announced that his party, the Movement of the Future, would not join any government led by a Hezbollah-backed prime minister.

Date posted: January 27, 2011 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 149