BEIRUT — Several dozen people demonstrated Thursday morning in front of the Anti-Cybercrime Bureau in Hazmieh in solidarity with journalist Lara Bitar, who was summoned following a complaint from the Lebanese Forces (LF) regarding an investigative article.
Present at the scene, Bitar was seen refusing to enter the office for questioning.
"This Bureau does not have the prerogatives to question journalists," she told those gathered at the demonstration. "We will try to transfer this case to the Court of Publications," which has jurisdiction over complaints against journalists and media, "or maybe the LF will decide to withdraw their complaint."
Bitar is editor-in-chief of the investigative journalism outlet The Public Source. She was summoned by the Anti-Cybercrime Bureau following a complaint filed by the LF, over an August 2022 article about alleged environmental crimes committed by the party during and after the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990).
Protesters on Thursday held up signs that read: "Offenders sue journalists" and "Journalism is not a crime."
"The Anti-cybercrime Bureau is cracking down on free speech in general. Summoning journalists is a way to intimidate them," journalist Doja Daoud told L'Orient Today at the protest.
On Monday morning, about 100 people demonstrated in front of the Justice Palace in Beirut to denounce State Security's summoning of journalist Jean Kassir, co-founder of the media outlet Megaphone News. According to Megaphone, Kassir was summoned over a March 1 article titled: "Lebanon governed by officials wanted by the justice."
The article mentioned Court of Cassation prosecutor judge Ghassan Oueidat, in reference to the proceedings launched against him in the Aug. 4, 2020 port blast investigation.
Additional reporting by Mohamad Yassin.