Political killings continued in 2007, the army and an Islamist group fought in a Palestinian refugee camp and the country’s institutions were paralysed. All this affected the media.
Lebanon, at the heart of the standoff between Western countries and their regional allies and Syria and Iran on the other hand, is going through one of the most serious crises in its history. Since the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri en 2005, divisions in the country’s various communities have worsened, but despite the political tension, the media is still much freer than elsewhere in the region.
However, many journalists complained about restrictions imposed by the army during clashes with Palestinian militants in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in May 2007. The army kept the media away, supposedly for security reasons, and cameramen and photographers were roughed up.
Five journalists were fined, sometimes heavily, for libel in 2007. They included Tawfik Khattab, managing editor of the daily Al-Mustaqbal, and journalist Zahi Webhé, fined 50 million Lebanese pounds (€22,000) in February for “harming the reputation” of President Emile Lahoud, and Maryam Bassam, news editor of the station New TV, who was fined three million pounds (€1,320) in December for “harming the judiciary.” The court also ordered the station to pay 25 million pounds (€11,000) in damages to justice minister Charles Rizk.
Legal investigations continued during the year to find those responsible for killing journalists Samir Kassir and Gebran Tueni and seriously mutilating TV presenter May Chidiac in 2005. Meanwhile, three other prominent Lebanese were murdered in Beirut in 2007. International support for local investigators is still strong and creation in June of a Special Tribunal for Lebanon could be a step towards ending impunity.