Judge Muhammad Mazieh issued an order in Tyre, Lebanon, on Saturday, banning Lebanese media from reporting on criticism of Hezbollah supporters by US ambassador Dorothy Shea. Shea has continued to appear on television since the ruling, and Lebanon’s government has criticized the judge’s decision.
Shea reportedly stated in an interview on the Saudi-owned news channel Al-Hadath that “Counterterrorism sanctions apply not only to Hezbollah but to those who provide them with material support.” Shea also stated that the US government was still in the process of determining if the current government of Lebanon was “an independent government of technocrats not beholden to Hezbollah,” and that they have “not yet seen what we hoped for from this government in the way of concrete steps to implement the reforms the economy so desperately needs.” The US has recognized Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization since 1997.
According to Mazieh, the ambassador’s comments, “incited sectarian strife and threatened social peace.” The judge also noted that, while he was unable to prevent an ambassador from speaking, it is within his power to prevent the media from interviewing her for a year.
The private LBC TV station has already announced that it would appeal the judge’s ruling. The Lebanese government has not officially responded to the ruling, but the Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad has reportedly “tweeted that while she understood the judge’s concerns about diplomats meddling in Lebanon’s internal affairs ‘no one had the right to prevent the media from covering news or to curb press freedoms.'”
In response to the ruling, Shea has reportedly said, “I think it is a distraction. I wish people would spend their time and attention trying to solve the problems facing the country,” and added that the Lebanese government had already apologized to her for the ruling.