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Journalist detained and questioned for six hours

(Maharat/IFEX) - On 11 August 2010, the Lebanese army intelligence department detained journalist Hassan Alleik, a reporter for the "Al-Akhbar" newspaper, and questioned him for six hours about an article published in the newspaper on 10 August. The article was about the escape of an agent named Ghassan El Jed, who was previously accused by Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah of being involved in the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Maharat is concerned about the violations against the reporter, who was detained on an informal warrant issued by the general prosecutor's office. The concerns are as follows:

- Under Lebanese law, journalists can only appear in courts, even for military charges, and not in front of security officers.
- Only publications courts can call on witnesses and defendants.
- Alleik was not allowed to have his lawyer present.
- The defence minister, Elias El Murr, made a public statement threatening Alleik and other journalists, which is a violation of Lebanese laws and the scope of his ministerial powers. The minister is obligated to refer the issue to the courts.
- The defence minister accused Alleik of being an agent and committing treason, which is a dangerous accusation. Moreover, the charge of treason can only be made by the courts, not by a minister.
- Maharat calls on the authorities to respect journalists and journalists' right to protect their sources. Journalists should not be charged criminally if they refuse to reveal their sources.

At the same time, Maharat calls on journalists to avoid publishing false information and to demonstrate professional ethics while working in the public interest. Maharat also calls on media outlets to contribute to public discourse, demonstrate tolerance and avoid the language of violence and mistrust.

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