BEIRUT — Around 100 demonstrators and activists gathered Monday morning in front of the Beirut Justice Palace to denounce the summoning of journalist Jean Kassir, co-founder of the media outlet Megaphone News, by State Security. The sit-in was called by the Alternative Press Union Gathering.
Megaphone said on Friday that the Prosecutor General at the Court of Cassation Ghassan Oueidat is behind the summoning of Jean Kassir for questioning, which, according to the media outlet, is because of an article published on March 1 entitled "Lebanon governed by officials sought by justice."
In this article, Oueidat's name appears in reference to the proceedings launched against him in relation to the Aug. 4, 2020, explosion at the port of Beirut.
"Reprisers prosecute journalists," "To the military we say: the press is free," "Security interrogations of journalists are illegal," read placards displayed by the demonstrators.
The protesters included members of the Alternative Press Union and the National Bloc. A dozen soldiers as well as members of the Internal Security Forces (ISF) were deployed to the scene. The demonstration, however, was peaceful, according to our reporter on site.
"The sit-in called by the Alternative Press Union Gathering is a natural reaction to the fact that journalists are not being treated according to standards, or even threatened," Jean Kassir told L'Orient-Le Jour. "If one of us is affected, we are all affected," he continued, adding that "freedom is very fragile in Lebanon."
The journalist also said that the case is now in the hands of Oueidat, noting, "I have no problem appearing before the courts, but not before security bodies."
"The way I was summoned and the fact of turning ideas into security cases is unacceptable. Journalists must appear before a judge or the Court of Printed Materials," he explained, assuring Megaphones' work will continue.
Present at the scene, Jad Chahrour, spokesman for the SKeyes Center for Media Freedom and Culture, said that "the judiciary has proven its affiliation to the ruling class."
"It pursues journalists who have revealed the truth when it is their role," he told our publication, before adding: "We are talking about security bodies directly linked to the politicized judiciary, which protects parties and politicians.”
On Friday, the day Jean Kassir's summons caused an outcry in Lebanon, another journalist, Lara Bitar, editor of the investigative journalism outlet The Public Source, announced that she had been summoned by the Anti-Cybercrime Bureau.
Bitar is due to appear on Thursday, following "a complaint from the Lebanese Forces (LF)" regarding an article published last August on alleged environmental crimes perpetrated by the LF during and after the Lebanese Civil War (1975-90). A sit-in is also planned for Thursday morning in solidarity with Bitar.
On Saturday, the caretaker Information Minister Ziad Makari, showed his support for the rights to "freedom of opinion and expression" of the two journalists summoned, assuring that he is "closely following" the issue.
Reporting contributed by Mathieu Karam