The last time Lebanese security personnel openly beat up civilians with absolutely no regards to the potential repercussions to their actions was when the Syrian security apparatus was ruling our country. Back then, I had to cross checkpoints set up by that army in order to go to school. We were not allowed to voice opposition… or else. We were bombarded with images of the young men and women who tried to defy that apparatus: how they were beaten up then taken in those army vehicles to some jail cell in who knows where.
Things have been miserable in Lebanon, yes. But amid all of the tensions and the violence and the country not knowing where it’s heading, I didn’t think I’d see people getting beaten up by armed forces whose job is to supposedly maintain order.
NewTV’s journalistic crew was researching the corruption that infests Lebanese Customs at our one and only airport. We all know such corruption exists. I know of stories about the hints they drop regarding the money you should pay in order to get certain equipments into the country. Of course, no tangible proof exists and even if such proof were to be found, what would change?
NewTV’s crew didn’t think the country that championed freedom of speech and of the press would do such a thing to them. So they took their megaphones and braced those Beiruti roads and called for the head of customs to grant them an interview. They got beaten up and arrested. People were outraged. Customs officials were scrambling to come up with excuses: they were bad-mouthing our chairperson, they said in a statement they hoped would explain where they were coming from, as if that’s an acceptable excuse. Can you imagine, for instance, what would have happened if American military personnel beat up a civilian for bad-mouthing Obama?
NewTV’s crew was released late last night. They had bruises over their face. They looked victorious and proud of what they had accomplished, as they should be. They had – even if only for a minute – gotten the country to look at our customs that have been using laws that, similarly to the entirety of Lebanon’s laws, have not been updated in a long, long time and which enable them to blatantly do whatever they please without any consequences.
I have to wonder though, what would happen to the people like you and I who don’t have the platform of a TV station to support and protect in case of such transgressions to their basic rights? Make no mistake, this isn’t a case of freedom of speech. This is a violation to those journalists’ human rights. And it happened in broad daylight. And there will be no repercussions for it, because that’s how Lebanon rolls.
But the story doesn’t end there because our jamerek figured it would be such a great idea to go on a strike to protest what had befallen them a day earlier. Their rights had been violated, I’m sure they thought, which include the right to guzzle endless amounts of money here and there to build their villas and buy their fancy cars and rise above the system that is geared towards decimating the finances of those like you and I, all while such “rights” are overlooked due to the countless of reasons that make up Lebanon’s political landscape what it is today.
I give it one more day until this becomes old news and we are forced to reckon with other more “important” things. Lebanon is always exciting that way.