BEIRUT: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon's Defense office Friday defended summons issued against two Lebanese journalists after many Lebanese officials complained that the action violated freedom of the press.
The Defense Office submitted a request to [an STL] judge to open an investigation after a website published photographs said to be that of witnesses,” head of the STL Defense Office Francois Roux told LBCI television channel.
“At the time, rumors quickly surfaced that the Defense Office was behind the leaks,” Roux added, pointing out that the STL took swift action by asking judges to launch an investigation to determine the source of the leak.
Roux said such leaks “could adversely affect witneness’ security and later witnesses from the Defense Office.”
“It is natural for the STL and international courts to provide protection for the witnesses and the defense witnesses,” Roux added.
"We are in the middle of a judicial process, and there are some journalists accused,” he said in reference to editors of the pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar newspaper and Al-Jadeed TV.
The STL issued summons last week for Al-Akhbar editor-in-chief Ibrahim al-Amin and Karma Khayyat, the deputy news director at Al-Jadeed, accusing them of contempt and disrupting justice after the media outlets published a list of alleged names of witnesses.
Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi has defended the STL and urged journalists to do their duty under the law.
Rifi said that while freedom of expression is protected by the Lebanese Constitution, journalists, under Lebanese law, are “prohibited from breaching the confidentiality of the judicial investigation and publishing of witnesses’ names, which could have a negative impact on the course of justice."