The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) is a local non-profit, non-partisan Lebanese human rights organization in Beirut that was established by the Franco-Lebanese Movement SOLIDA (Support for Lebanese Detained Arbitrarily) in 2006. SOLIDA has been active since 1996 in the struggle against arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and the impunity of those perpetrating gross human violations.

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April 17, 2015

The Daily Star - Lebanon Al-Jadeed defense blasts ‘double standards’, April 17, 2015

Hashem Osseiran

The controversial contempt case against Al-Jadeed TV and journalist Karma al-Khayat kicked off Thursday at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, with the defense maintaining the charges encroached on the freedom of press. “We are not targeting the freedom of press,” Prosecutor Kenneth Scott declared before the The Hague-based court set up to investigate the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

“No judge can say that this is the first time or a rare instance in which a journalist is charged with contempt of court,” Scott said, claiming that “most international tribunals have tried journalists for contempt, and most of them were convicted.”

The case against the media outlet and Khayat stems from a series of broadcasts aired on the network in 2012 entitled “The Witnesses of the International Tribunal,” which revealed information about allegedly confidential witnesses of the STL. The Special Tribunal claims that the broadcast was a concerted effort to undermine the public’s confidence in the court.

While journalists have been charged with contempt of court in international criminal trials, a legal entity, such as Al-Jadeed TV, has never faced similar charges before an international tribunal.

In his opening statement, Scott said freedom of expression had limits. He insisted that the case against Al-Jadeed had nothing to do with the right to criticize the court, saying there was wide space for criticism.

Rather, it was about protecting witnesses, their families and livelihoods and protecting the court’s ability to gather and collect evidence, Scott added.

“The entire tenor of the program was the exposure of alleged confidential witnesses and undermining confidence in the court.”

This case involves a media agency that has engaged in a “journalistic race, while knowing the sensitivity and the impact of this information,” Scott said.

The prosecutor said that the series broadcast on Al-Jadeed revealed information about the alleged witnesses such as their voices and their license plate numbers. He said that the information made the alleged witnesses recognizable to friends and family members who expressed their worries over the broadcast.

As for the source of Al-Jadeed’s information, Scott said leaks inside the court were never discovered, and accused the television station of a campaign to undermine the court by alleging leaks that did not exist.

“Maybe this information came from monitoring the witnesses and their movements, or from hacks, or from phone tappings. Maybe the information was stolen or collected from different sources and not one source,” the prosecutor said.

“But Al-Jadeed never confirmed that the information was leaked from the court. In fact the evidence will suggest that Al-Jadeed did not know where this information came from,” he added.

In her opening statement, a defiant Khayat claimed that she was carrying out her “professional duties” by preserving justice and alerting the public of leaks coming from the tribunal.

“But when we redirected the course of justice and warned of the danger of leaks you came to us with the powers of Chapter 7 as a weapon in your hands to tell us to be quiet,” Khayat said in reference to a chapter in the Tribunal’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence. “The power is with you, the right is with us, and he who has the right fears nothing.”

Khayat said that the charges against Al-Jadeed which she described as a “painful blow to investigative journalism” are a product of a “double standard.”

The Al-Jadeed news editor questioned why the court decided to prosecute her case while Western reporters who have published sensitive details about the trial have not drawn the same level of scrutiny.

“Admitting to an error is a virtue,” she said. So there is no shame for Scott to admit that Lebanon’s journalists are as free as journalists in the West, she added.

“And there is no shame for every person who has taken advantage of justice to terrorize journalism to stand and apologize to justice and the media.”

Defense attorney Karim Khan, who is representing both Khayat and Al-Jadeed, said the prosecution could not prove criminal intent and asserted that there was no proof that the alleged criminal conduct had a detrimental effect on the tribunal’s administration of justice.

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