US Urges Lebanon to Drop Charges Against Journalist
The United States urged Lebanese authorities on Wednesday to drop treason charges against a Lebanese-American journalist who participated in a panel discussion last year with an Israeli official, reported the Daily Star newspaper.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the charges against Raghida Dergham, New York bureau chief for the London-based Al Hayat, were a cause for deep concern as they violated Dergham's civil rights.
“The case raises very serious concerns for us about freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom of association,” Boucher said, adding that Lebanon was a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Dergham was indicted in absentia by a Lebanese military court on March 22 and a warrant for her arrest is out. She did not appear at the first trial hearing in Beirut on June 1, which was adjourned until November 30, the paper said.
Dergham was charged for her participation in a May 2000 panel discussion sponsored by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington.
The panel included Uri Lubrani, a former Israeli government coordinator of activities in then-occupied south Lebanon.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemned the court.
"These charges are absurd," CPJ Middle East program coordinator, Joel Campagna, said in a statement published on CPJ’s website. "We view the treason case against Dergham as part of a pattern of state harassment intended to punish an independent journalist for doing her job. The government of Lebanon has shown contempt for press freedom and the free public debate that is essential in a democratic society.”
The charges should be dropped, and Dergham should be free to work without further harassment, Campagna added – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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