Don’t blame Syrian refugees for your problems, Lebanon told

A young Syrian refugee in Lebanon. (Reuters)
Updated 12 October 2017
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Don’t blame Syrian refugees for your problems, Lebanon told

BEIRUT: Political leaders, religious authorities and the media were urged on Wednesday not to make Syrian refugees scapegoats for Lebanon’s problems.
“Lebanon is headed toward parliamentary elections, and there are so many controversial debates about issues that affect Lebanese society, politics and the economy,” said Mireille Girard, representative in Lebanon for the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.
“Tension may sometimes be focused on refugees because they are believed to be the cause of many current political, security and economic problems. Thus, it is very important that we sit together and thoroughly discuss this matter.
“The media is responsible for reducing tension and being objective, and this is also the responsibility of political leaders, religious authorities and other concerned sectors.”
Girard was speaking at a workshop organized with the Ministry of Information on media coverage of the refugee issue. Information Minister Melhem Riachy called for “positive media coverage that does not conceal facts, violate the principle of objectivity and suggest that the whole population of a country are murderers because one of them committed a crime.”
Riachy accused some media outlets of promoting racism and ideas that contradicted historical fact. “If we wish for refugees to return safely to their own country, we must work to ease the causes of tension in Lebanon,” he said.
UNHCR Protection Officer Esther Pinzari said immigrants and displaced people were not the same as Syrian refugees, of whom there were 1 million in Lebanon. Ensuring their safe and voluntary return was important, she said. “Seeking refuge in a third country is the solution for a small number of people who suffer from extremely fragile conditions.”
Nasser Yassin, director of research at the Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, said most Syrian refugees were women and children, and they contributed $1.25 billion to Lebanon’s economy.
“In the past, they used to spend their money inside Syria,” he said. “If refugees returned to Syria today, only the tension would be eased, but not Lebanon’s economic crisis.”
Schott Gregg, UNHCR media officer, said refugees could not be forced to return to Syria while violence continued. “The war in Syria is not over yet,” he said. “The areas that are safe this week may not be so next week.”


Palestinian journalist wins appeal over Gaza graft report

Updated 25 March 2019
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Palestinian journalist wins appeal over Gaza graft report

  • The appeals court in Gaza “acquitted journalist Hajar Harb of all charges and closed her file”

GAZA CITY: A Palestinian journalist was acquitted on appeal over an investigative report about corruption in the Gaza Strip Monday, according to Amnesty International and a campaign group.

In a 2016 report for Al-Araby TV, Hajar Harb alleged that doctors were writing false medical reports to let people leave Gaza for treatment, one of the few reasons Israel allows Palestinians out of the blockaded strip run by Hamas.

In October that year, two doctors launched legal proceedings accusing her of defamation and “publishing false information,” according to Amnesty International.

The 34-year-old had been sentenced to six months in prison and fined, but the appeals court overruled the decision, said Fathi Sabah, head of a group supporting Harb.

The appeals court in Gaza “acquitted journalist Hajjar Harb of all charges and closed her file,” he said.

“This represents not just a victory for Hajjar but for freedom of the press,” he added.

Amnesty said Harb had been questioned by police at least four times following her report, but welcomed the decision of the court.

“It is really good news that Hajjar Harb was acquitted today, she was standing a trial that should not have taken place to begin with,” said Saleh Higazi, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“We hope that the Gaza authorities take this opportunity to signal that they are serious about freedom of expression and the press.”

In 2018, the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms recorded 77 violations of press freedom in the Palestinian Authority-run West Bank and 37 such cases in Gaza.

Hamas have controlled Gaza for more than a decade and have recently cracked down violently on street protests.