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One newspaper, two TV stations, one radio station forced to stop operating following Hezbollah attacks

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemns Hezbollah's armed attacks and threats against four news media owned by the family of Saad Hariri, the head of Future Movement, the anti-Syrian majority party in the Lebanese parliament.

All four news media - the terrestrial and satellite TV station Future TV, satellite TV news channel Future News, the daily newspaper "Al-Mustakbal" and Radio Orient - were forced to stop operating on 9 May 2008.

"Lebanon is undergoing a serious political crisis and the situation is very disturbing," the press freedom organisation said. "We hope the gagging of the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority's news media is not a harbinger of even greater violence. The aggressiveness displayed by Hezbollah militants poses an additional danger for the many journalists covering the clashes on the streets of Beirut. We urge Hezbollah to refrain from attacks on the press."

Rockets were fired early on the morning of 9 May at "Al-Mustakbal"'s headquarters, starting a fire on one of its floors. Soon afterwards, gunmen surrounded the offices of Future TV, Future News and Radio Orient and threatened to open fire if they did not stop broadcasting. Witnesses said Hezbollah militiamen disabled their video surveillance systems and then disconnected their broadcast cables. Lebanese army soldiers protected employees as they left the buildings to go home.

There have been clashes between Hezbollah militiamen and supporters of the anti-Syrian majority for more than 24 hours in several west Beirut neighbourhoods.

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