LONDON: The deportation of senior Reuters correspondent Suleiman al-Khalidi from Lebanon has been criticized by journalists in the Arab world.
Al-Khalidi, a Jordanian national, flew to Beirut in early August on a reporting assignment but was stopped by authorities at passport control who took him aside for questioning and asked him to surrender his company laptop computer and mobile phone.
Following hours of questioning, the officials detained him overnight after he refused to surrender his devices and was deported back to Jordan the next day.
News of his deportation surfaced on Friday and provoked public criticism, particularly from journalists.
Reuters contacted Lebanese authorities to reverse the decision.
“We have protested to Lebanese government officials about the treatment of Reuters journalist Suleiman al-Khalidi and are seeking further information from these authorities, who have provided no explanation for their action,” a Reuters spokesperson said.
Insisting that al-Khalidi’s reporting had always been independent and impartial, Reuters condemned the limitation and freedom of movement imposed on journalists.
In response, Lebanon’s General Directorate of General Security said the law ensured a free media environment. But it did not confirm whether al-Khalidi's deportation would be reversed.
“The ban on his entry to Lebanon is a purely sovereign decision of the Lebanese state, and has no relation to his work or profession,” it said.
The authorities said the decision was a denial of entry, rather than a deportation, because his passport was never actually stamped.
Al-Khalidi is Reuters chief correspondent for Jordan and Syria.
He has worked for the news agency for 25 years, covering Jordan and the Syrian conflict, as well as reporting from Iraq, Lebanon, Libya and the Gulf.