BEIRUT: A Lebanese journalist was denied entry to Baabda Presidential Palace to cover a cabinet meeting on Thursday because of an incident that happened there last month.
In a live report, Al-Jadeed TV reporter Layal Saad said she was told by a representative of the palace’s press office that she could not enter the building. She added that she “was not allowed to do her journalistic duty” because of the previous confrontation.
Saad, who has covered events at the palace for five years, was reportedly subjected to verbal abuse by a security officer on Aug. 21. At the time she said that while the podium was being prepared for speeches, the officer overheard her asking colleagues, in reference to President Michel Aoun, ‘Is Aoun giving a speech?’ The man came up to her, she added, stood very close and spoke to her angrily and abusively, telling her: “You address him by saying ‘his excellency the president, General Michel Aoun,’ and not just ‘Aoun.’”
Saad said this incident was the reason why she was denied entry to the palace on Thursday. In a live broadcast she said: “Some of the palace’s staff and presidential advisors called me after August’s incident and apologized, saying it was a mistake that shouldn’t have happened.”
She added that was told the officer should not have spoken to her because only press office staff should deal with journalists.
“The employee (who refused to let Saad into the palace on Thursday) told me that the previous incident remains unresolved,” she said. “The president’s media advisor, Rafic Chlala, is the one who asked him to notify me that I could not enter the palace to cover the meeting … they didn’t want anyone from the security staff to speak to me.”
Saad added that she was told to ask her employers to send another correspondent.
Al-Jadeed TV responded to the palace by firmly stating it “will not assign any colleague to replace Layal Saad. It is not a matter of alternatives anymore but rather it has become about the core of freedoms and the transformation of Baabda palace into a tool of suppressing words and existence.”
Saying “Layal Saad or nobody,” it added: “Facing this ban, the channel finds itself compelled to file a lawsuit against the pertinent authorities at Baabda Palace, which is the people’s palace. The law doesn’t prohibit any citizen from entering any public facility.”
Saad told Arab News that palace staff must not be allowed to treat the building as “their own private house because it’s a public facility and any citizen can enter.”
She added that although she is not personally taking legal action against palace authorities, her employers intend to.
“The lawsuit will be lodged against any staff and advisors involved in issuing the ban and I am not sure if that includes the presidency … that’s up to the lawyers to talk about it,” she said.
The president’s press office said the management of Al-Jadeed had been asked to replace Saad with another reporter, and that other journalists had been assigned to cover the palace recently without any problems.
It added that Al-Jadeed was reminded that the same restriction continued to apply as a result of the incident in August, but this time the channel sent Saad anyway to cover the cabinet session and she was asked to leave.