BEIRUT: Two local editors summoned by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon over charges of contempt and disrupting justice should go to the court to defend themselves against the accusations, Information Minister Ramzi Joreige said in Parliament Wednesday.
“We stand in solidarity with the media, but the media is subject to the law,” he said.
“There are a lot of objections to summoning the journalists from Al-Jadeed and Al-Akhbar; they should express their objections in court,” Joreige said, adding that he “sensed” they were ready to appear before the Tribunal.
Joreige, who is close to the Kataeb Party and is the former head of the Beirut Bar Association, said he would take the issue up in Cabinet.
“I support the media and I will support them and take the required steps concerning the case and discuss the issue in Cabinet, but my advice to the two journalists is to respond to the summons,” Joreige said.
“I am sure they can prove their innocence,” he added.
The U.N.-backed court, located in The Hague, the Netherlands, last week summoned the editors of Al-Akhbar newspaper and Al-Jadeed television, accusing the two of contempt and disrupting justice after the media outlets published a list of alleged names of witnesses.
Ibrahim al-Amin, the editor-in-chief of the daily Al-Akhbar, and Karma al-Khayyat, the deputy head of news at Al-Jadeed TV, along with the news outlets’ parent companies, are accused of “knowingly and willfully interfering with the administration of justice.”
They are scheduled to appear before the court either in person or by video link in an initial hearing on May 13, ahead of a trial before the STL’s contempt judge.
STL spokesman Marten Youssef told The Daily Star Wednesday that the judge who will preside over the contempt proceedings was an independent judge who had no previous involvement in the investigation, which was ordered by previous contempt judge David Baragwanath – the Tribunal’s president.
Both media outlets, which are considered pro-Hezbollah, have been critical of Joreige’s stance on the summons, describing it as hazy.
Sources told The Daily Star last week that Joreige had argued with Hezbollah ministers Hussein Hajj Hasan and Mohammad Fneish over the issue during a Cabinet meeting.
The STL is tasked with investigating the 2005 Valentine’s Day bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others. The court has accused five members of Hezbollah in the case.
Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah and other lawmakers have urged the government to oppose the charges.
“The STL is attacking the freedom of the press, and today we – representing parliamentary blocs – are here to defend Lebanon, whose sovereignty was violated,” Fadlallah said in Parliament Wednesday, during a gathering of MPs that was called to express solidarity with the two journalists.
“We call on the government to act quickly and efficiently to protect institutions,” he added.
“Ibrahim al-Amine and Karma Khayyat are the targets today, but others might be in the future.”
Fadlallah and most March 8 lawmakers failed to appear in Parliament Wednesday for the second round of the presidential election, preventing polls taking place due to a lack of quorum. A new session is scheduled for May 7.