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Journalist attacked while filming sand extraction on coast

(Maharat/IFEX) - Beirut, 29 June 2012 - Al-Manar reporter Diaa Abou Taam was beaten and cursed by members of the Lebanese Army Intelligence in Zouk Mosbeh, on Thursday June 29th 2012, while he was on assignment shooting video for his investigations about seafront violations.

Diaa recounted the incident to Maharat over the telephone:

“I wanted to shoot video of the sand extraction through pumps between Holiday Inn resort and AL Zouk Thermal Station. Since the beach can only be seen from a high place, I headed to the nearest place that shows the beach and stopped at the beginning of Yasou' Al Malak road. There were no signs indicating that it is a security zone and I didn't know that the house of MP Strida Gaegae was around. When we finished shooting, and 150 meters away, a man in civilian clothes stopped us and started asking us questions. I introduced myself as an Al-Manar journalist, and I asked him to tell me who he is. It's then that I found out he is from the internal security forces. The police arrived soon after and one of the members asked to inspect our car, he watched the film and asked us to accompany him to the police station. I refused, considering it a waste of time and that I have a report to finish. Then four members arrived in a Mercedes Benz with dark windows, three of them came to us wearing jackets with Lebanese Army Intelligence labels. I made clear to them that I am talking to the police and I refuse to go to the station, and then one of the members started shouting at me and hit me in the face. So I told him 'you are treating us this way because we work at Al-Manar, and you are not dealing with us as Lebanese. We work in an institution that you have to deal with it and I am not going to the station.' Then they started threatening us and when I confronted them, they started beating us.

When I told them that I will sue them and asked them to give me their names if they dare to, they asked me about my name then one of them said “why didn't you tell me you are Diaa” and they wanted to calm things down but I refused. They left and I stayed with the police; I called my institution and I asked the police to call the station because we want to file a case. Then the chief of the police station asked us to go to his office so we went in our cars and we filed a case. We stayed there until the police commander and the chief of zouk Mosbeh police examined the film that included pictures from Khalde until Jounieh Beach”.

While following up on the incident, it turned out that there was a conflict between different security bodies. MP Strida Geagea issued a statement noting that members of the internal security forces assigned to protect her asked the specialized security bodies to investigate the reason behind the film shooting around her place. As for the chief of the Lebanese Army Intelligence, he said that the members are from the army intelligence but they were off duty and they will be held accountable. He apologized to the journalists and to the media institution.

Abou Taam is worried about the politicised coverage of the attacks, that has aimed to protect the attackers. Abou Taam also called on MP Geagea to stop defending the attackers and to collaborate with media and journalists as they did with the attack on Al Jadeed TV station.
Maharat condemns the attack on the journalist Abou Taam while he was on duty working as investigative journalist, and asks the authorities to investigate the incident seriously in order to hold the attackers accountable.

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