RSF’s Beirut press freedom centre – “When you’re a journalist, you must be able to equip yourself”

Amid the heightened dangers resulting from the war in Gaza and its impact throughout the region, journalists in Lebanon need protective equipment, reliable Internet access and psychological support. They have talked to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) about their concerns and needs at the Press Freedom Centre that RSF has just opened in Beirut.

“The three journalists killed by Israeli strikes in Lebanon since 7 October show that the war in Gaza is impacting the entire region. There is clearly a crucial and urgent need to help journalists covering the war throughout the region. We continue to request the protection of reporters and to stand by them, so that they can continue doing their job to report the news safely. RSF has opened the Press Freedom Centre in Beirut to respond to the need for equipment and assistance expressed by reporters.

Jonathan Dagher
Head of RSF’s Middle East desk

“Everything has changed since 7 October,” RSF was told by Arthur Sarradin, the correspondent of the French daily Libération. “We very quickly understood that there was a danger,” said Nada Maucourant Atallah, a reporter for the English-language daily The National. The war in Gaza is having a concrete impact on the media community in Lebanon.

While covering the repercussions of the war in Gaza, three journalists have been killed in southern Lebanon, the site of frequent clashes between Hezbollah and Israel. Israeli strikes killed Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah on 13 October and two Al-Mayadeen journalists, Farah Omar and Rabih Maamari, a month later.

“The message sent by the Israeli army is that no journalist in the region is spared,” Sarradin said. As a result and because of the lack of protective equipment, “many journalists now refrain from going to the south of the country,” the reporter adds.

Regional press freedom centre

As well as working with its local partner, Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ), to provide direct support to Palestinian journalists working amid airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, RSF opened a regional press freedom centre in Beirut on 21 March with its long-standing partner in Lebanon, the Samir Kassir Foundation.

The purpose of the centre is to provide journalists with a space where they can meet and work, and provide them with protective equipment, including helmets, bulletproof vests and first-aid kits, as well as psychological support, legal assistance and training in digital and physical security.

“People tell me that the vest didn’t protect Issam, but I reply to them that the vest protected me, it protected my colleague Elie Brakhya and it protected our colleague Dylan Collins,” Al Jazeera reporter Carmen Joukhadar said at the opening of the centre. She was one of the six journalists who were badly injured by the 13 October strike that took Issam Abdallah’s life. 

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