Dima Sadek and Hasan Shaaban are being subjected to a new wave of threats and intimidation.
This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 17 August 2022.
Two Lebanese journalists often targeted by Hezbollah activists in the past have been simultaneously subjected to a new wave of harassment and threats. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns these intimidation attempts and points out that around 30 other journalists have been the targets of such methods since the Beirut port explosion two years ago.
“We deplore this latest wave of hatred to be unleashed by Hezbollah against journalists in Lebanon,” RSF’s Middle East desk said. “These violent threats keep on recurring and often lead to physical violence or even murder. We urge the Lebanese authorities to protect the journalists concerned and to investigate the intimidation to which they were subjected.”
The two journalists to be subjected to this new wave of threats and intimidation – orchestrated by Hezbollah supporters on 13 August – were Dima Sadek, an MTV anchor who is well known in Lebanon, and Bloomberg photojournalist Hasan Shaaban.
Sadek was targeted after posting a satirical tweet about Iran’s role in the previous day’s attempt on the life of British-American novelist Salman Rushdie in the United States. The tweet showed the title of his controversial novel, The Satanic Verses, and a photomontage of Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran’s first Supreme Leader, and Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards unit known as the Quds Force, who was murdered by a US drone strike in 2020.
Jawad Nasrallah, a member of Hezbollah and son of this Shia party’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, targeted Sadek directly – sharing her tweet and accusing her of being a “tool” of foreign governments. At the same time, Ali Barakat, a well-known singer and author of many hymns to Hezbollah’s glory, addressed the party’s activists in a video. “Everyone who believes that Khomeini and Soleimani are sacred will know what to do with Dima Sadek.” Soon afterwards, many Twitter accounts began threatening her with murder, rape and other forms of violence and even said where she lives.
Sadek, who is herself a Shia Muslim, is well known for her criticism of Hezbollah and this is not the first time she has found herself at the centre of a whirlwind of threats from Hezbollah supporters and allies.
“Since this morning I have been subjected to a smear campaign that has gone so far as to call for my murder,” Sadek tweeted. “I officially inform the Lebanese authorities about it by means of this tweet. I also hold Hezbollah’s leaders publicly and officially fully responsible for any harm that may now happen to me.”
Shaaban meanwhile found that someone had jammed a steel spike into one of the tyres of his car while it was parked outside his home in a village in southern Lebanon. A note attached to the spike said: “Leave the village, traitor, dog.” A few days before, he was physically attacked by Hezbollah supporters who accused him of treachery because of his coverage of a protest critical of Hezbollah in the same village. The day after that attack, he found a bullet attached to the driver’s window of his car.
Both Shaaban and Sadek have filed complaints with the poilice.
According to RSF’s tally, around 30 journalists have been harassed or threatened by Hezbollah members in the past two years. Those responsible are capable of passing from threats to action, as was seen with Lokman Slim, a journalist and writer who was murdered on 4 February 2021. He had been threatened for months and similar accusations – of “traitor” and “foreign agent” – had been levelled against him.