First Published: 2006-06-02

Lebanon: Protests over TV Hezbollah parody

Three hurt during street protests in Beirut over caricature impersonating Nasrallah on LBCI private TV channel.


Middle East Online

By Nayla Razzouk BEIRUT

Nasrallah supporters burning tyres to block a highway

Three people were wounded during street protests overnight Friday by followers of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah after its chief Hassan Nasrallah was caricatured in a television satirical show.

Dozens of young men briefly cut off the Beirut airport road by burning tyres to block a highway located near Beirut's southern suburbs - a stronghold of the Lebanese militant group, police said.

"God, Nasrallah and all of the southern suburbs," chanted the men, waving yellow Hezbollah flags.

After the programme ended late Thursday, Hezbollah followers also staged night-time protests in various parts of the capital, in several towns in southern Lebanon, and in the Bakaa Valley near the border with Syria.

The protests only ended after Nasrallah personally made a plea for calm on television during the night in order "to protect the country's security and stability".

He also called for the need to find ways to protect "political and moral values".

"Three of us spent the night in hospital for treatment after we were beaten" by protestors in Beirut's Christian neighbourhood of Ashrafiyeh, said Sami Gemayel, son of former president and the supreme chief of the Christian party Kataeb, Amin Gemayel.

Gemayel said that he suffered bruising to his back, and university students Gilbert Rizk and Bassam Samarani underwent surgery on their faces and noses.

"We were awaiting the army to stop the protestors from entering Ashrafiyeh, and we did not want them to enter Monot street," which is lined with restaurants and nightclubs, he said.

"Then, suddenly dozens of them attacked us. They beat us with their hands, iron bars and batons," said Gemayel.

The weekly satirical programme, which showed a man wearing a beard and turban impersonating Nasrallah, is broadcast on the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (LBCI) private TV channel, and includes sketches which regularly portray Lebanese politicians.

LBCI was formerly the mouthpiece of the Lebanese Forces militia.

"This programme is part of a campaign aimed at liquidating the resistance," Hezbollah MP Ali Ammar told reporters during the overnight protests.

Later Friday, the country's National Audiovisual Council broadcasting watchdog held a special session to denounce the broadcast, and demanded an explanation from LBCI.

"If LBCI does not apologize, the Council will take disciplinary measures against it, since the broadcasting law forbids attacks on religious figures," the watchdog's president Abdel Hadi Mahfouz told journalists.

The show's producer, Charbel Dagher, has already apologized publicly, saying the programme was not intended to undermine the Hezbollah leader.

Hezbollah has faced growing domestic and international pressure to disarm, particularly with the passing of UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which was adopted in September 2004 and called for the disarmament of all militias in Lebanon.

Hezbollah, the only armed group not required to lay down its weapons after the 1975-1990 civil war in Lebanon because it was spearheading the fight against Israel, is considered a terrorist organisation by Washington.


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