LONDON: Sawt Beirut International reporter Rabih Chantaf and cameraman Mahmoud Al-Sayyed were attacked and harassed by Hezbollah and Amal party loyalists on Tuesday while covering a fire in Beirut.
“Sawt Beirut International will be taking additional steps in the coming period to confirm that it will not give up in the face of this terrorist attack carried out by Hezbollah,” Sawt Beirut International founder Jerry Maher told Arab News.
“We are convinced that Hezbollah gave the order to the groups that attacked our crew and this operation was organised.”
In a video depicting the incident, Chantaf is seen reporting from the 11th floor apartment in the Zouqaq Al-Blat district in Beirut where the fire occurred.
A group of firemen can be seen attending to the damage and, soon after, plain-clothed men approached the reporter and cameraman ordering them to stop filming. Voices were later heard struggling until the filming abruptly ended.
Chantaf and Al-Sayyed were beaten as they attempted to flee down the stairs, Arab News was told, until they reached the street, where the Lebanese army interfered.
“One of those terrorists even warned a soldier telling him ‘move away or we will shoot you.’ There was a very high level of incitement,” Maher, who is also the media adviser to Bahaa Hariri, the brother of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri.
“This incident pushes us to carry on with this confrontation. We will not back down, we will not give up and we will not allow this corrupt system and those who protect it using illegitimate weapons, namely Hezbollah, to endanger the future of Lebanon and of the Lebanese people through such acts that undermine the security of the Lebanese people,” Maher said.
In a tweet Bahaa later condemning “the cowardly attack on the Sawt Beirut International team in Beirut by supporters of a duo who do not believe in freedom of the press.”
ندين بشدة الإعتداء الجبان على فريق عمل صوت بيروت إنترناشونال في بيروت من أنصار ثنائي لا يؤمن بحرية الصحافة التي هي العمود الفقري للديمقراطية ويسعى لتحويل لبنان إلى دولة تنعدم فيها الحريات. @SawtBeirut
— Bahaa Rafik Hariri (@bahaa_hariri_) November 25, 2020
The duo refers to Hezbollah and Amal, the predominantly Shia political parties in the country.
This is not the first time Hezbollah and its allies have harassed journalists in Lebanon. Last month, journalist Luna Safwan was a victim of an online abuse campaign after a tweet she posted criticizing Hezbollah was carried by an Israeli news channel and she was accused of cooperating with Israel.
Lebanon is currently witnessing several crises. Even before the August port explosion that left at least 200 dead, the country was facing an unprecedented economic and financial slump, which the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated.
Saad Hariri was asked to form a government after his predecessor PM Hassan Diab resigned following the explosions, and prime minister-designate Mustapha Adib gave up after struggling to form a cabinet on his terms.