LONDON: British Journalist Matt Kynaston was reportedly detained in South Beirut while covering the country’s fuel crisis by men claiming to be members of Hezbollah.
Kynaston, who reports for Beirut daily NOW Lebanon, was detained alongside German freelance journalist Stella Männer.
The UK’s Chargé d’Affaires in Lebanon Martin Longden said that he has been in contact with the Lebanese authorities since learning of the incident, and said that Kynaston was currently with the authorities.
I have been in touch personally with the Lebanese authorities since learning of the incident this afternoon. I understand Mr. Kynaston is now in their care, and I am grateful for their assistance. 1/2
— Martin Longden (@MlongdenUK) June 28, 2021
“This remains a serious and troubling incident: Journalists should not be impeded from carrying out their legitimate functions — a free press is critical to democracy in Lebanon,” Longden tweeted.
“We are delighted that Matt has been released and can only sympathize with him and all colleagues working under such circumstances and harassment at the hands of the Iranian backed Hezbollah,” said a senior editor at Arab News en Francais.
Earlier on Monday, NOW Lebanon’s senior editor, Ana Maria Luca, tweeted that “They (Hezbollah) requested his phone and passport, press card was not enough.
@NOW_leb journalist @MattKynaston has been detained on the Airport Road by men who introduced as #Hezbollah agents while trying to cover a story on the fuel crisis at one of the only petrol stations open. They requested his phone and passport, press card was not enough.
— Ana Maria Luca (@aml1609) June 28, 2021
“Before his phone was probably taken away he sent a voice note with a recording of a man saying ‘I have the right to take his phone. I have the right to take his phone without his consent,’” she continued.
“He chose this particular gas station because they had issued a call to the Lebanese security forces to come and resolve a tense situation with stranded motorists. They did not mention they had #Hezbollah to defend them from journalists,” she added.
According to Luca, Männer was able to send her location to a friend at about 4 p.m. local time before she stopped responding, with her last known whereabouts being the “Orphan Gas station on the Airport Road.”