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Hundreds turn out for funeral of slain Al-Manar journalists

Mourners carry the coffin of Al-Manar journalist Hamzah Hajj Hasan during his funeral procession in Shaath, Tuesday, April 15, 2014. (The Daily Star/Nidal Solh)

SHAATH, Lebanon: Dressed in black and carrying Hezbollah flags, hundreds took part Tuesday in the funeral procession of an Al-Manar journalist who was killed in Syria.

Weeping and distraught, Hamzah Hajj Hasan’s mother was surrounded by consoling relatives and also had a party flag draped around her shoulders as she led the women’s procession in the Bekaa Valley village of Shaath.

Hajj Hasan, 26, was among three Al-Manar staff who were covering the Syrian army’s takeover of the Christian town of Maaloula in Syria’s Qalamoun region when their vehicle came under heavy fire Monday.

Technician Halim Allaw and cameraman Mohammad Mantash were also killed in the attack, local television said, claiming it was carried out by “takfiri terrorists.”

As Hajj Hasan’s body arrived in an ambulance to the funeral, gunshots were fired in the air as the crowd chanted a popular Shiite slogan: “Humiliation is far from us.”

Women ululated and tossed flowers and rice on the coffin, which was wrapped with a yellow Hezbollah flag and carried on the shoulders of the deceased’s friends and relatives to the burial site.

Hajj Hasan, along with other Al-Manar reporters, has provided extensive coverage of the Qalamoun battles, accompanying soldiers and interviewing Syrian army officers.

Mantash was also laid to rest in his Nabatieh hometown of Kfar Sir in south Lebanon, where hundreds attended the funeral.

The death of the journalists received wide condemnation from President Michel Sleiman and the March 14 camp, which opposes Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian conflict.

Sleiman denounced “the murder of journalists who were doing their professional duty to deliver facts through sounds and images to the public,” adding that he also denounced the kidnapping of journalists, a widespread phenomenon in the neighboring country.

Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon also denounced the shooting, saying that such a crime was unjustified, and called for keeping journalists neutral toward any party involved in the fighting in Syria.

Also Tuesday, Telecoms Minister Boutros Harb offered his condolences to Al-Manar, saying the victims were doing their journalistic duty by covering the war in Syria.

“Killing or kidnapping or attacking a journalist while he is doing his duty is an act we condemn and denounce. The media’s mission is one that we hold in high esteem and respect, and Al-Manar’s television team has fallen, unfortunately, victim to its journalistic duty to which it was dedicated,” Harb said.

Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai offered his condolences to Al-Manar Tuesday, stressing the “importance and the role of the sincere word and the realistic image conveyed by every journalist, and the importance of the media’s mission toward shaping public opinion.”

The Iranian Foreign Ministry also condemned the attack.

“The heinous crime that was committed by takfiri terrorist groups in Syria that targeted the Al-Manar team – the mouthpiece of Hezbollah in the city of Maaloula – reveals yet again the real dangers of violence and extremism,” said Marzieh Afkham, a ministry spokesperson.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 16, 2014, on page 3.

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Summary

Dressed in black and carrying Hezbollah flags, hundreds took part Tuesday in the funeral procession of an Al-Manar journalist who was killed in Syria.

Hajj Hasan, 26, was among three Al-Manar staff who were covering the Syrian army's takeover of the Christian town of Maaloula in Syria's Qalamoun region when their vehicle came under heavy fire Monday.

The death of the journalists received wide condemnation from President Michel Sleiman and the March 14 camp, which opposes Hezbollah's involvement in the Syrian conflict.

Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon also denounced the shooting, saying that such a crime was unjustified, and called for keeping journalists neutral toward any party involved in the fighting in Syria.


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