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Lebanon journalist assaulted by police while covering anti-government protests

Lebanese security forces clash with protesters during a protest held before a session at a parliament for a vote of confidence to new government of Hassan Diab on February 11, 2020 in Beirut, Lebanon [Mahmut Geldi/ Anadolu Agency]
Lebanese security forces clash with protesters during a protest held before a session at a parliament for a vote of confidence to new government of Hassan Diab on February 11, 2020 in Beirut, Lebanon [Mahmut Geldi/ Anadolu Agency]

Lebanese economic and financial affairs journalist, Mohammad Zbeeb, was reportedly assaulted by police after leaving a talk in the Beirut district of Hamra yesterday evening.

The Alternative Journalists syndicate said the attack is “an attack on all journalists, the revolution and a crime against freedoms”. The group later organised a protest denouncing the attack, and similar assaults on journalists who have been covering Lebanon’s anti-government protests since they started in October outside the Central Bank in Downtown Beirut.

Zbeeb previously resigned from his position as editor in chief of Lebanese newspaper, Al-Akbar, in November 2019, citing “the administration’s attitude towards the Revolution”. The pro-Hezbollah paper reportedly viewed the revolution as suspicious and refused to publish fair and objective coverage.

Later, Zbeeb said via Twitter, that he is “not afraid”, and published images of financial reports alleging that $27 billion came out of Lebanese banks last year through deposits and interest, 98 per cent of which were withdrawn by one per cent of depositors.

READ: Lebanon’s government seeks vote of confidence amid violent protests

Lebanese journalists have been subject to increasing brutality from the police and army, since protests became violent in January. A group of journalists protested the police brutality on 16 January, briefly closing roads outside the interior ministry, after days of violence resulted in reporters being threatened, beaten and detained.

The Skeyes Centre for Media and Cultural Freedom identified more than 75 violations of media rights since the protests began in October, including 20 between 14-20 January.

American journalist Nicholas Frakes was detained on 18 January, after Lebanese officials believed he was live streaming protests for Israeli news network, Haaretz.

Lebanon and Israel are technically still at war, and communications between them are illegal.

Haaretz later clarified that “no journalist was reporting for the newspaper on the protests from Beirut, and it has no connection to the US citizen being held”.

Other journalists had similar experiences on 18 January, including French photographer Greg Demarque, who was detained and beaten, and Reuters journalist Essam Al-Abdullah who was assaulted. Both were released the next day.

Several journalists have also been injured during confrontations between security forces and protesters. Cameraman from national news channel, Al-Jadeed, was shot in the hand and transferred to hospital for treatment, while a journalist from Al Jazeera was hit in the leg.

Multiple news outlets have since called for arbitrary detention and beating of journalists who are covering the protests to stop.

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