The Israeli attack on Hezbollah forces in Lebanon that began on 12 July 2006 resulted in many civilian victims. A journalist and a TV station technician were killed and 10 other media workers injured. Meanwhile no real progress was made in investigating the murder in 2005 of two journalists.
Israeli forces bombed Lebanese media installations during the fighting with the Hezbollah militia. An Israeli official told Reporters Without Borders in Jerusalem in December 2006 that “media affiliated to terrorist organisations” did not have the same rights as other media outlets because their staff took part in terrorist activities in the same way as someone who made missiles.
Israeli warplanes destroyed a transmission mast at Fatka, east of Beirut, on 22 July, temporarily putting the privately-owned Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) TV station off the air. A station technician, Sleiman Chidiac, was killed during the attack and two other employees injured. Israeli planes bombed an LBC installation in the northern town of Terbol the same day, cutting off broadcasts to some regions by LBC and privately-owned TV stations Future TV and Al-Manar.
The next day, press photographer Layal Nagib, 23, was killed when a missile exploded near her car in Cana while she was covering the Israeli attacks in southern Lebanon for several international news agencies.
The media have more freedom in Lebanon than in any other Arab country but still have to cope with political and judicial machinations. The investigation into the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri is getting nowhere and two journalists for the satellite station New TV were arrested on 19 December for entering the apartment of a witness in the case.
The pair - Firas Hatoum and Abdel-Azim Khayat - along with their driver Mohammed Barbar, were charged with theft under the criminal code (rather than the press law) and were not allowed the rights journalists usually have, including appearance in court of their own free will. At the end of the year, the three men were still in prison at Roumieh, northeast of Beirut, awaiting trial. Offices of Al-Manar, the TV station operated by the Hezbollah, were struck by an israeli missile in Beirut in July.
The UN Security Council authorised the UN international enquiry commission on the Hariri murder on 15 June to simply continue giving technical help to the Lebanese authorities in investigating other terrorist crimes committed since 1 October 2004, thus rejecting an appeal by Reporters Without Borders for the UN enquiry’s own mandate to be expanded to include these crimes.
No significant progress was made in 2006 in Lebanese investigations of attacks on media workers in the previous year. An examining judge was finally named on 17 June to handle the case of the murder of Gebran Tueni, managing editor of the daily paper An-Nahar, more than six months earlier.
French anti-terrorist judge Jean-Louis Bruguière went to Beirut for the first time on 4 July to look into the death of Franco-Lebanese journalist Samir Kassir, who was killed by a car bomb on 2 June 2005. Meanwhile, LBC TV presenter May Chidiac, who was seriously wounded in another car bomb attack on 25 September 2005, returned to the air on 25 July 2006, but the bombers who caused her to have an arm and a leg amputated have still not been tried and punished.