LONDON: “I am the one who knocks,” Lebanese investigative journalist Riad Kobeissi said — taking the infamous line from US hit drama “Breaking Bad” — while looking straight into the camera.
On his Al-Jadeed show “The corrupt regime falls,” Kobeissi was directly speaking to the now-imprisoned former Director-General of Lebanese Port Customs Badri Daher after the blast rocked the capital and killed more than 200 people. It came during an episode where Kobeissi exposed the long list of corrupt activities that led to the fateful ammonium nitrate entering Lebanon’s main port.
— riad kobaissi (@riadkobaissi) November 5, 2019
Indeed, it is the bald and spectacle-wearing reporter and anchor that has politicians shaking — so much so that he had his windshield smashed up — and was thus honored by US Secretary Antony Blinken at the 2021 Anti-Corruption Champions Awards for his leadership, courage and impact in preventing, exposing and combating corruption.
“Just a few months ago, Riad Kobeissi, a Lebanese journalist, had his windshield smashed while reporting a story on abuses by security forces,” he said. “Despite the attacks, Riad and the other honorees have persisted, and we’re grateful to them. To today’s honorees, thank you for your inspiring and essential work.”
“The United States is honored to be your partner now and going forward, and to all, congratulations.”
Kobeissi has risen to become one of the most respected investigative journalists in Lebanon. His work in exposing corruption has been showcased in the Lebanese section of the Swiss Leaks, as well as the Panama Papers.
Born in 1981, he has lived his whole life in Lebanon. He studied at the Lebanese American University, from which he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2003.
During his time at LAU, Kobeissi worked as a freelance writer for the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir where he mostly wrote on social and political issues for its youth edition.
Kobeissi continued to work for the paper until 2006, taking the role of editor of the international page from January 2005 until July 2006. In 2012, he returned to education to take up a master’s degree in international affairs from LAU.
He currently works with Al-Jadeed, where he heads the Investigative Report Unit and anchors his show.
In addition to his US recognition, Kobaissi is a two-time winner of the ARIJ (Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism) Award, and a winner of Thomson Foundation’s Inquirer Award.
Despite the prevalence of corrupt Lebanese politicians who own or have deep ties to many media institutions, Kobeissi rose to prominence as one of the critical voices against the government, particularly after the port explosion.
Since then he has published a number of documents exposing individuals allegedly responsible for storing the ammonium nitrate that caused the dock blast. However, as a result, he was attacked in his car while covering a story involving the country’s Internal Security Forces.
As Kobeissi continues his work, and to be recognized for it, many worry that his fate may echo that of the country’s assassinated journalists — Annahar’s former editor Gebran Tueini, renowned journalist Samir Kassir and, most recently, Lokman Slim.