A British journalist was reportedly detained Monday by Hezbollah members in Lebanon before being handed over to the country’s authorities, the reporter’s employer said.
“@NOW_leb journalist @MattKynaston has been detained on the Airport Road by men who introduced as #Hezbollah agents while trying to cover a story on the fuel crisis at one of the only petrol stations open. They requested his phone and passport, press card was not enough,” senior editor at NOW Lebanon Ana Maria Luca tweeted.
NOW Lebanon is a website that was recently re-launched after a three-year hiatus due to funding issues. On its website, the publication says it is “independent, not neutral.”
In an article published regarding the reported detention of two of its reporters, NOW said: “NOW journalist Matthew Kynaston and German freelance reporter Stella Männer were detained on Monday by men identifying themselves as agents of Hezbollah while he was reporting on Lebanon’s fuel crisis. Kynaston, 33, and Männer were reporting on the ongoing fuel crisis at the gas station on the Airport Road when he was approached by the men who demanded to see his passport and his phone.”
Later Monday, UK Charge d’Affaires in Lebanon Martin Longden said he had reached out to Lebanese authorities who said they had custody of Kynaston. “This remains a serious and troubling incident: journalists should not be impeded from carrying out their legitimate functions – a free press is critical to democracy in Lebanon,” the British diplomat tweeted.
The Samir Kassir Foundation, a Lebanon-based press freedom group, blasted the detention by an “unofficial side who isn’t legally permitted to detain journalists.”
Ayman Mhanna, the foundation’s Executive Director, told Al Arabiya English that Monday’s incident was “yet another sign of a state failing its basic duties.”
“There is one word for this: abduction! And what is equally shameful: once their abductors handed them to General Security, the latter interrogated the journalists instead of interrogating those who abducted them,” Mhanna said.
Mhanna added: “The mere fact that those who did this feel free to do so without any concern … [is] a strong indicator to the identity of the perpetrator.”
Hezbollah, designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, the Gulf and many European, South American and Central American countries, has a history of detaining journalists.
It has also detained international students doing research projects in areas Hezbollah considers its strongholds.