TYRE, Lebanon: Italian soldiers serving with the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon intercepted a number of journalists while they covered the firing of rockets from Lebanon into Israel and the subsequent Israeli retaliatory shelling of southern villages.
“It is a dangerous precedent for UNIFIL members to prevent journalists from doing their jobs,” Bilal Qashmar, a reporter and a TV cameraman, told The Daily Star.
He said while he and two other journalists were covering the developments in the south, a UNIFIL vehicle blocked their way near the Al-Amiriya village on the main Tyre-Naqoura road and prevented them from completing their mission, even though they told them that they were journalists.
Qashmar said an Army patrol came and released them after they had been held for over an hour.
Journalists based in the Tyre region condemned what they called the “repressive seizure” by Italian peacekeepers of Qashmar and the two other journalists, Samer Haj Ali and Ali Hajou. They thanked the Lebanese Army, which rejected this measure and worked to release the three journalists. They also demanded a public apology from the Italian peacekeepers over their action.
“It is not in UNIFIL’s mandate to arrest journalists and detain [them] for more than one hour,” the journalists said.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 14, 2014, on page 3.