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MORNING BRIEF

Lebanon mourns Abu Akleh, schools closed for elections, creditors updated on IMF deal: Everything you need to know to start your Thursday

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Thursday, May 12

Lebanon mourns Abu Akleh, schools closed for elections, creditors updated on IMF deal: Everything you need to know to start your Thursday

Protesters gather in Downtown Beirut on May 11, 2022, to mourn journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, killed yesterday by Israeli forces. (Credit: @NakabaBadila/Twitter)

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The Alternative Press Syndicate in Lebanon held a protest in Downtown Beirut yesterday in response to Israeli forces’ killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Demonstrators, who gathered outside the headquarters of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, said this was an effort to deliver a message to the UN and demand an “investigation and international condemnation.” Abu Akleh was a long-time correspondent for Al Jazeera Arabic. Earlier yesterday she was shot in the head by Israeli forces while wearing a vest clearly marked “Press” and standing with a group of other journalists, as she was reporting on the Israeli army raids in Jenin in the occupied West Bank. She was quickly taken to the hospital in critical condition, where she was pronounced dead. In the wake of her death, outrage and grief poured out across social media, as users denounced her murder. According to the Samir Kassir Foundation, since 2006, 1,200 journalists have been assassinated around the world with no accountability or investigation into their deaths. Following the killing, President Michel Aoun sent a cable of condolences to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Education Minister Abbas Halabi has ordered the closure of schools and public institutions from Thursday to Monday for the May 15 parliamentary elections. His reasoning for this, he said, is that some schools and public institutions will be used as polling stations during the elections. Workers in charge of organizing the electoral process are scheduled to vote today. The closures will take place from Thursday morning (today) until Monday evening. According to the minister, the facilities will be cleaned before students return to classes on Tuesday. The general parliamentary elections will be held on Sunday, May 15. Elections have already taken place overseas in 59 countries with a turnout of nearly triple that of the 2018 elections.

Mount Lebanon Public Prosecutor Ghada Aoun again ordered the sealing of the doors of money transfer company Mecattaf. This move came late on Tuesaday, after an urgent matters judge ordered the lifting of the red wax seal on the company’s doors earlier that day. Mecattaf was originally prosecuted in August 2021, by Aoun, on suspicions of money laundering. The company’s lawyer, Mark Habka, described the decision as “illegal.” On Tuesday, Metn’s urgent matters judge, Ralph Karkaby, ordered the company's doors be reopened and said that the seals “infringe on the company's rights to carry out its commercial activities.” This came after the financial attorney general chose not to rule on the case in the absence of a criminal offense. Aoun initiated lawsuits against the company and now-deceased Michel Mecattaf, who died of a heart attack this past March, at the age of 52. He was the former son-in-law of President Amine Gemayel.

Deputy Prime Minister Saade Chami and Finance Minister Youssef Khalil held a video conference yesterday to update Lebanon’s creditors on its deal with the International Monetary Fund. Lebanon recently signed a staff-level agreement with the fund. The call was organized by the financial firm Lazard, which the Lebanese government has held on retainer to advise it on negotiations with creditors and the restructuring of the Eurobonds. During the call, a presentation showed that Lebanon owes $37 billion in foreign currency, $9 billion of which are in unpaid interest and matured bonds. As for debt in Lebanese lira, it stood at $62 billion at the official rate of LL1,507.5 to the US dollar, but dropped to $5 billion at LL20,000 to the US dollar. Lebanon defaulted on its external debt in March 2020. Two years later in April 2022, the country signed a staff-level agreement with the IMF for a $3 billion deal over 46 months. However, this package is conditional on Lebanon implementing reforms including a forensic audit of Banque du Liban, unification of exchange rates and approval of the 2022 budget.

In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday:Sa’alouni El Nas: A digital sobhiye for the global MENA community



Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up. The Alternative Press Syndicate in Lebanon held a protest in Downtown Beirut yesterday in response to Israeli forces’ killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Demonstrators, who gathered outside the headquarters of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, said this was...