LEBANON has been known for its press freedom since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Whenever someone from any party attempts to violate or touch the press body, he ends up experiencing major political and security tremors.
One of the incidents that sparked war was the assassination of journalist Naseeb Al-Natni. In 1980, the assassination of Riyadh Taha, and later, Saleem Al-Louzi, in the hands of occupying Syrian agents were attempts to restrict freedom of expression and opinion. Despite the major game of war which prevailed at the time, press freedom stood firm and solid. No force managed to shake it off.
Today, as the authority lifts the cover of moral political protection on a journalist of the stature of Marcel Ghanem through the Justice Ministry which is affiliated to Michel Aoun’s faction, the long gone era of oppression returns. This pushes the crisis in Lebanon into confrontation level which makes every Lebanese journalist fear for his life due to assassination and oppression practiced by ‘Hezbollah’ and its allies publicly.
With that, truth became the prelude to Marcel Ghanem’s statement in his famous program, ‘Kalaam Al-Naas’ (People Talk), in which he said “Those influencing the country’s decision want the people to be a herd of sheep, moving in accordance with the mood of the shepherd – ‘Hezb Al-Shaytan’.
Lebanon has never lived in a grim condition similar to the current one — threats against its journalists and even those hosted by Lebanese press media among Arabs, just like what happened to Ghanem and his guests in the famous episode.
This indicates that the terrorist threat of ‘Hezb Al-Shaytan’ is ‘transboundary’. It has also reached the Arab press with everyone wondering if ‘Hezb’ will send assassination teams to murder Arab journalists who oppose its position — the reason why they killed several Lebanese politicians and journalists such as Rafik Al-Hariri and Gebran Tueni; and their attempts will not end with May Chidiac.
Or will Lebanon pursue Arab journalists all over the world in the same manner that the Mullah regime does, where its embassies become police stations whenever lawsuits are filed against journalists and newspapers?
In spite of the grim image, a white dot has started to expand. This began with the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri who uncovered and ignited the flame of defiance on ‘Hezbollah’ by sounding the wake-up alarm for the Lebanese and breaking the barrier of fear.
Hence, if the whirlwind opposing ‘Hezbollah’ in Dahieh was suppressed and ended up kissing flip-flops, today the issue is completely different as terrorism has reached the level of terrorizing Lebanese journalists. This is something the group will never be able to confront irrespective of its hallucination on its strength.
What Marcel Ghanem is going through, and many before him have gone through, is a disgrace to Lebanon’s freedom and all its institutions; because it empties the contents of Lebanese democracy. Perhaps, its president should reconsider his calculations before hurling threats from the presidential palace in Baabda towards this audacious journalist.
He should reconsider his bet on ‘Hezb Al-Shaytan’ which does not want any other voice to be heard except its voice in a country based on its freedom of expression.
Therefore, if the Lebanese continue to criticize interference of the intelligence agency in the press and journalism sectors during the reign of Fuad Shehab, describing that stage as ‘Dactylo’ reign even if not a single drop of journalist blood was shed, they should know that they will not stand with their hand crossed while the ‘lung’ of their freedom – the press — is being violated.
This is in spite of the Iranian voice silencers which are having fun in Lebanon. Thus, it is imperative for Lebanese President Michel Aoun to ask if he can pay this price.