Al-Akhbar's Unchanging Stances

By: Ibrahim al-Amin  | Published Friday, March 14, 2014

In the past couple of days Al-Akhbar has received a barrage of criticisms accompanied by a good amount of insults from people who strongly protested our decision to postpone publishing French documents that prove that Lebanese President Michel Suleiman had illegally forged French passports when he was chief of the armed forces.

Of course, these people have the right to say what they did but they also have the right to understand the context in which we took this decision. It is also their right to express their skepticism of any stance we take on any future issues.

But it is useful to openly discuss our current situation, including developments like the decision by the public prosecutor [on Wednesday] to send Al-Akhbar’s articles about Suleiman and Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi to the Court of Publications. And the head of the court, Judge Roukoz Rizk, rushing to set the first court date in less than a month.

It is not important to explain the circumstances that led the public prosecution to take this decision and whether Rifi was upset because the case was referred to the Court of Publications instead of a criminal court. It is not important now to explain the details of a lot of the contacts made between political figures within the state and relevant parties within the judiciary about this issue. But it is necessary, in light of what went on, to say the following:

First, Al-Akhbar strongly adheres to its position not to appear before the current Court of Publications and confirms the motion by legal representative, attorney Nizar Saghieh, requesting that the current court staff step down.

Second, between now and the date of the hearing, Al-Akhbar will publish a set of official documents that prove the charges included in the articles that have been referred to the court against Suleiman, Rifi, and others whose involvement in illegal activities will be exposed.

Third, Al-Akhbar expects the judicial authorities to fully investigate the official documents that will be published. If judicial authorities fail to act in this case, under the pretext of political immunity, then we will consider this a violation of public duty, which will release us of our commitment to appear before any judicial body. We will not respond to any request to appear before any judicial body with prior preparation to endure the results of this decision, whatever the cost may be.

Fourth, Al-Akhbar’s attempt to give judicial authorities the chance to take practical steps to correct these problems and announce the court’s refusal to succumb to the dictates of political power failed. Nothing of the pledge made to the newspaper was fulfilled, even if it was an informal and undocumented pledge.

Fifth, Al-Akhbar will continue in its initiative to organize a joint effort between the media and legal groups aimed at regulating the media’s relationship with the judicial system and no other authority. Al-Akhbar strongly supports the initiative launched by organizations such as the Legal Agenda and Maharat to reach a formula that would regulate the relationship between the media and the judiciary in a way that would protect both people’s rights and public freedoms. We will support every action that would lead to this result.

Sixth, Al-Akhbar did not and will not strike a deal, neither with the public prosecutor nor with the political, security and judicial authorities irrespective of their positions and influence. And Al-Akhbar will not refrain from publishing everything it decides the public should know. The decision to postpone publishing the Suleiman documents did not at any time come as a result of a deal and it will not in the future.

Republishing does not mean that we did not receive certain requests. All it means is an honest attempt requested by a judicial figure for the sake of interests that supersede everyone else’s. Even though we did not think the attempt would succeed, we preferred - and we still do - the victory of the law over any other benefit for us as a newspaper or in the press. But that same judicial figure informed us that his attempt is hopeless and that he releases himself from his commitments and releases us from any further action.

Seventh, Al-Akhbar’s critical position towards Suleiman has nothing to do with the political disagreement between the president and any political party, especially Hezbollah. For those who care to remember, they can search Al-Akhbar's free online archive. They will see that the newspaper was always critical of Suleiman and scrutinized everything he did when he was the army chief, when he became president, and when he was on good terms and cooperated closely with Hezbollah. Incidentally, Suleiman always asked Hezbollah officials about materials printed by Al-Akhbar who clearly and categorically denied any relationship to it. Therefore, our critical stance of the president is not influenced by any political position.

Finally, Al-Akhbar’s position regarding the Resistance against the Israeli enemy is not a personal position or even a political position. It is rather a nonnegotiable moral position. Whoever thinks that the Resistance could be the subject of criticism, we tell him, irrespective of his position, that he is wrong and that the Resistance is beyond criticism.

Attempts by politicians of all stripes to criticize Hezbollah’s leadership in terms of its political behavior and its alliances, or even its military intervention in Syria, will not sway a firm moral stand regarding any of these issues. Whoever attacks the Resistance, serves the enemy and whoever serves the enemy is either an enemy or the enemy’s agent, end of discussion.

(This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.)