BEIRUT — An explosive device was thrown on Sunday evening in the parking lot of the Lebanese TV channel LBCI but caused only material damage, the state-run National News Agency reported.
The device was deployed during the broadcast of the daily evening news presented by Bassam Abou Zeid.
A video recording of Abou Zaid is making the rounds on social networks. It shows Abou Zaid become startled by a detonation sound in the middle of the LBCI news on Sunday evening; he quickly looks away before resuming his speech. Shortly after, he explains the origin of the incident: an explosive device was thrown by unknown persons at the parking lot of the LBCI headquarters in Adma, Kesrouan.
The Internal Security Forces did not respond to L'Orient Today's requests for further information on the circumstances of this incident.
The channel said on its website that "according to initial investigations, two people who were on a motorcycle are suspected, according to the images of video surveillance cameras." It added that "the pin of a grenade was found."
The incident has prompted widespread condemnation, with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati denouncing in a tweet the "aggression" and assuring that "freedom of press will remain protected." Mikati added that he had contacted LBCI's CEO, Pierre Daher, to whom he "assured that investigations will be carried out to uncover the circumstances of what happened." Several Lebanese MPs also condemned the incident.
"What happened is dubious, unacceptable and heinous, and we will continue to protect the freedom of press," said caretaker Information Minister Ziad Makari following the incident. "I will follow this case with the security forces who have launched investigations, in order to try the culprits as soon as possible," he continued, in a message posted on Twitter.
The reason LBCI was targeted is so far unknown.
Last week, the channel broadcast on its social networks a sketch entitled "You can now learn the Shiite language," a video in which a teacher teaches his students expressions and dialect that are common within Lebanon's Shiite community. The video caused an outcry, with many denouncing its "stigmatization" of the community.
The incident also comes amid press reports last week that Daher may run for president. Druze leader Walid Joumblatt, whose daughter recently married Daher's son, had responded half-heartedly to speculation about such a candidacy by stating that he had "no name yet for a consensus candidate," after a meeting with a Hezbollah delegation. Daher's son, Joey, also denied to L'Orient Today a meeting, mentioned in the press, with a Hezbollah senior official.
Last month, the Al Jadeed channel was targeted several times, including by an incident in which unknown people threw a Molotov cocktail towards the channel's premises. The channel was targeted following the broadcasting of a sketch in which a Lebanese comedian seemed to refer to sexual relations between women in South Lebanon and UN peacekeepers serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).