There was uproar in Lebanon on Thursday after Kuwaiti media writer and producer Fajer Al-Saeed was prevented from entering the country. Al-Saeed was stopped at Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport on Wednesday evening, with Lebanon’s General Security rejecting a request from Kuwaiti Embassy officials to allow her to spend the night there before leaving on the first flight to Kuwait.
Instead, she was deported back to her country on Thursday morning after spending the night at the airport.
Al-Saeed had flown to Lebanon to shoot an episode for the “We Want the Truth” program on the Sawt Beirut International e-platform.
However, she claimed she was detained at the General Security checkpoint over a “name similarity issue” before being told a permanent deportation order had been issued against her, banning her from entering the country.
In 2021, the Arab League designated Beirut as the Capital of Arab Media for 2023 as a symbol of solidarity with the city following the devastating port explosion.
Joseph Al-Kosseifi, head of the Lebanese Press Editors’ Syndicate, told Arab News: “We are against obstructing the work of any journalist in Lebanon — whether Lebanese or visiting from abroad. “What happened requires clarification. Some claim that Al-Saeed was prevented from entering Lebanon due to an Israeli stamp on her passport, while others argue that her bold stance against Hezbollah was the reason.
“I will refrain from engaging in political disputes, but our position is clear. We oppose the prevention of any journalist or media professional from carrying out their professional duties.”
In a statement, the Progressive Socialist Party claimed the ban was “based solely on her political positions and opinions.” It added: “Such condemned behavior strikes at the core of Lebanon, which is built on freedoms, diversity, and respect for the press and journalists, regardless of whether they are Lebanese or foreigners.”
Samir Geagea, head of the Lebanese Forces party, described the ban as a “police action without any legal justification.”
He said: “It undermines everything that Lebanon stands for in terms of civilization, culture, and media, and it reflects a complete disregard for Lebanon’s Arab relationships.
“Kuwait has always been a source of support, assistance, and friendship to Lebanon in various fields, particularly in the development projects implemented by the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, which have surpassed what the Lebanese state has achieved in some areas.
“Is this how we repay our friends? It seems that the only reason for preventing this independent-minded journalist from entering Lebanon lies in her clear and transparent positions toward the axis of resistance.
Has Lebanon transformed into another North Korea?”
Al-Saeed noted that the decision to block her entry may have been based on her stance regarding Hezbollah, expressed during a television interview in Lebanon in November. She said: “I respect Lebanon’s laws, just as I respect the laws of my own country and any other country. If there is a decision to prevent me from traveling, let me leave.”
Al-Saeed revealed that she could not call the Kuwait Embassy until an officer gave her his phone which she used to send a tweet about what was happening.
She said: “I have been at Beirut airport for five hours, and I don’t know the reason. They told me that I am banned from entering the country. Thank you, Lebanon.”
On hearing the news of her detention, the acting Kuwaiti charge d’affaires headed to the airport with other embassy staff and suggested Al-Saeed wait at the embassy until the matter was clarified. But General Security declined the offer.
“They informed me that I was being detained. I want to emphasize that I respect the laws of every country. If you don’t want me, I won’t impose myself on anyone.
“However, that does not mean I don’t love the Lebanese people. You are aware of Lebanon’s circumstances and the decision-makers there, and this is purely a political matter.
“I have not committed any crimes. These are my political opinions, and perhaps some individuals have become sensitive to them and cannot tolerate differing viewpoints.
“We understand their sensitivity. These people break my heart; the ones who stand for what is right are the strong ones,” Al-Saeed added.
She thanked the General Security officers for treating her with respect and acknowledged the challenging working conditions they faced.
Al-Saeed said: “This is the current situation in this country. But I want to ask those who prevented me from entering Lebanon: Can they prevent my voice from reaching the Lebanese people?”
In a statement, the General Directorate of General Security claimed an examination of Al-Saeed’s documents on her arrival at the airport had revealed there to be an existing order prohibiting her entry.
“The procedures for entry and residence in Lebanon for Arabs and foreigners are solely under the jurisdiction of the directorate, in accordance with the applicable laws and regulations.
“Those with concerns can approach the directorate, either in person or through representation, to request a review of any decision made, provided they present relevant data and documents that warrant reconsideration,” the statement said.
MP Ghayath Yazbeck said, “the state and the colluding system” had “labeled advocates of free speech as enemies.” Apologizing to Al-Saeed over her treatment, he added: “This is not our airport, and this is not how we welcome our people and friends.”
Source: Arab News