CPJ slam Lebanon for sentencing journalist to jail for 'insulting army'

CPJ slam Lebanon for sentencing journalist to jail for 'insulting army'
Radwan Mortada was sentenced in absentia by a military court after criticising the Lebanese army for failing to prevent last year's deadly Beirut port explosion.
2 min read
30 November, 2021
Lebanese journalist Radwan Mortada was sentenced to 13 months in prison in absentia. [CPJ/Youtube screenshot]

The Committee to Protect Journalists called on Lebanese authorities on Monday to drop charges against Lebanese journalist Radwan Mortada, who was recently sentenced in absentia to 13 months in prison for criticising the Lebanese army's failure to prevent last year's deadly Beirut port explosion.

"The Lebanese military has no business trying and sentencing a journalist for simply reporting on the flawed investigation into the 2020 Beirut port blast," said CPJ's Middle East and North Africa representative, Ignacio Miguel Delgado.

"Lebanese authorities should refrain from imprisoning Radwan Mortada, refer this case to the Publications Court, and allow journalists to do their jobs freely and without fear of retaliation."

The Permanent Military Court in Beirut sentenced Mortada on 26 November for allegedly "insulting the military", local media reported. The charges followed a 9 January interview with local broadcaster Al-Jadeed, in which Mortada commented on the Lebanese authorities' handling of the 2020 Beirut blast and criticised the army for failing to prevent it.

Mortada, who is a reporter for Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar and the news website The Cradle, did not attend the court hearing. 

In a post-verdict interview on Al-Jadeed that same day, Mortada said he had not been notified of the date of the trial and objected to being tried before a military court.

Mortada has not been detained. He plans to appeal the sentence and request that the case be transferred to the Publications Court, which was specifically established to adjudicate freedom of expression cases.

The Beirut Port blast of August 2020 killed more than 200 people and injured thousands.

A judicial investigation into who should be held responsible for the explosion has been stalled multiple times by opponents.