The detention and interrogation of Hassan Allek, a reporter for the daily Al-Akhbar, by the defence ministry on 11 August were flagrant violations of media law, Reporters Without Borders said. They were prompted by a story by Allek that certain Lebanese government and military officials were cooperating with the Israeli intelligence services.
Summoned to the defence ministry headquarters in mid-morning, Allek was taken into custody, interrogated by intelligence officers for several hours and finally released at the end of the afternoon. His interrogators tried in vain to get Allek to reveal his sources for the report. Allek’s lawyer was not allowed to attend.
“Allek’s detention and interrogation were conducted in a completely arbitrary and illegal manner,” Reporters Without Borders said. “At the same time, the defence minister’s threats against him and the entire media profession raise doubts about a readiness to respect the rule of law on the part of those who are supposed to uphold it. This is disturbing for press freedom in Lebanon.”
While Allek was still being interrogated, defence minister Elias Murr gave a news conference in the middle of the afternoon in which he announced that Allek would be charged with defamation and disseminating false information and warned that the same charges would be brought against any other journalist who made similar allegations against senior army officers on active duty.
The procedure used with Allek was illegal under Lebanon’s 1974 decree-law on press freedom, which requires that any journalist suspected of defamation or reporting false information be interrogated before a judge and in the presence of his lawyer. Allek was not taken before a judge prior to his interrogation and no legal proceedings had been initiated when the defence minister made his public accusations against him.