Lebanon News

FPM website suddenly blocked in Saudi Arabia

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Free Patriotic Movement website was blocked Wednesday by government authorities in Saudi Arabia. The tayyar.org website reportedly became suddenly inaccessible to viewers in Saudi Arabia, with no comment from officials. A page displaying a message from the Saudi Culture Ministry appeared instead.

Patrick Bassil, founder and head of the tayyar.org website, told The Daily Star that he was taken by surprise, but would remain calm until an official statement was made.

“We were surprised because we don’t target Saudi Arabia in our news – we cover local news,” Bassil said.

He added that even in much more unstable periods in the past, the kingdom hadn’t taken such measures.

“We are going to wait for an official statement from the KSA.”

He added that Information Minister Melhem Riachi had been informed of the incident and would follow up on the matter.

Tayyar.org, in a statement, informed readers that Saudi authorities “blocked the news site and replaced it with an announcement.”

The website’s address redirected to an official message: “Sorry, the requested page is violating the regulations of the Culture and Information Ministry [in Saudi Arabia].”

“To unblock the page, you may send an official request to the Culture and Information Ministry,” the official message went on.

Coming back from the Arab-Islamic-American Summit in Riyadh Sunday night, Foreign Minister and FPM head Gebran Bassil tweeted to say he was unaware there would be a final statement from the meeting. The summit condemned Hezbollah as a terrorist group and the final statement reflected the designation. He said the statement was read after the Lebanese delegation had left the country. It is unclear at this stage whether Bassil’s comments regarding the final statement were connected to his party’s website being suspended.

The summit brought together over 50 leaders including United States President Donald Trump. Most leaders blasted Iran and Hezbollah for their role in regional tensions.

Wednesday, in a Cabinet session at the Baabda Palace, President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri reiterated that the Lebanese government would follow the President’s swearing-in speech and the Cabinet’s ministerial statement, in distancing Lebanon from all regional crises.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 25, 2017, on page 2.

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