Lebanese judge tries to ban media from quoting US ambassador
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns a Lebanese judge’s ban on media interviews with US ambassador Dorothy Shea after she criticized the Shia Islamist political party Hezbollah in an interview. The ban constitutes unacceptable meddling in the media, RSF said, stressing pluralism’s importance for press freedom.
Shortly after the Saudi-owned media outlet Al-Hadath broadcast the interview with Shea on 27 June, a judge in the southern city of Tyre ordered the Lebanese media not to quote what she said in the interview or conduct their own interviews with her for a year. Her statements could “endanger the people’s security,” he said.
Lebanese information minister Manal Abdel Samad condemned the order, saying “no one has the right to prevent the media from reporting information and to restrict media freedom.” She added that the dispute should be resolved by going through the information ministry, the journalists’ union and the National Media Council, a consultative body. The judge did not have the power to issue this kind of ban, she said.
“This attempt by a judge to meddle in media affairs is a flagrant violation of the right to inform,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “In a country that is as rich in communities as Lebanon, and where pluralism is essential, the media must be able to cover all viewpoints, even those critical of a powerful political movement.”
Despite the judge’s order, Lebanese media outlets including MTV broadcast the ambassador’s interview yesterday and conducted their own interviews with her, thereby exposing themselves to the possibility of being banned and fined up to 200,000 dollars.
Lebanon is ranked 102nd out of 180 countries and territories in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.