Lebanon News

Future: Hezbollah politically exploiting row over journalists

File - MP Ammar Houry attends a session at the Parliament in Beirut, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: The Future Movement lashed out Tuesday at Hezbollah for exploiting the controversy over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s summoning of Lebanese journalists over allegations of contempt.

In a statement read out by MP Ammar Houry after its weekly meeting, the bloc said that freedom of expression in Lebanon was a core value but that it was not absolute and could not be used to threaten the freedom or lives of others. The party acknowledged that the court had a responsibility to protect witnesses.

Last week, the STL accused editors from Al-Akhbar newspaper and Al-Jadeed TV of obstructing justice and contempt after the two outlets published a list of alleged STL witnesses.

The court, which is in the process of trying five Hezbollah suspects for involvement in the 2005 killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, issued a summons for Ibrahim al-Amin, the editor-in-chief of the pro- Hezbollah daily Al-Akhbar, and Karma al-Khayyat, the deputy head of news at Al-Jadeed TV.

The Future Movement said the STL was responsible for prosecuting those who leaked the details of supposed court witnesses and acknowledged the right of news outlets to criticize the court.

But the bloc said the issue under debate was not the right to criticize the tribunal, but the threats to the lives of potential witnesses, accusing the media outlets that published their details of encouraging impunity and condemning attacks on the court.

It accused Hezbollah of exploiting the controversy, noting that the five suspects accused by the court belong to the party and that it had refused to hand them over.

“It is a cause of great surprise ... that the protectors of the accused and the enemies of the tribunal join to allegedly defend freedoms while they support the tyrants in Syria and they supported them before in Lebanon,” the bloc said.

Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi also defended the STL Tuesday, saying that while freedom of expression was protected by the Lebanese Constitution, journalists, under Lebanese law, are “prohibited from breaching the confidentiality of the judicial investigation and publishing witnesses’ names, which could have a negative impact on the course of justice.”

Rifi reaffirmed Lebanon’s commitment to cooperate with the STL.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 30, 2014, on page 3.




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