Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A note on the Al Akhbar/STL question

[Originally posted at NOW]

One never knows quite how seriously to take the emissions of Al Akhbar’s editor-in-chief Ibrahim al-Amin – a caricature of the puritanical, prolier-than-thou pseudo-leftist; who laments the collapse of the Soviet Union; who says with a straight face that all Lebanese who oppose Hizbullah’s private arsenal are “working for Israeli military intelligence”; who could outbid even George Galloway in admiration for the careers of Saddam Hussein and Bashar al-Assad – but his recent attempts to excuse the publication of the names, photographs and addresses of 17 alleged witnesses in the upcoming Special Tribunal for Lebanon trial are not much to chuckle about.

On Sunday, he published the first of two responses to STL spokesman Marten Youssef’s criticism of Al Akhbar’s conduct at the SKEyes Media Coverage of International Justice conference over the weekend, in which he argued that the public had a “right” to know the information, before changing the subject to the litany of alleged foul play on the part of the prosecution (or, as Amin calls it, the “international campaign of fabrication targeting the Resistance”).

In his second piece on Monday, Amin boasted that “We Will Not Be Silenced”, painting Al Akhbar as heroic whistleblowers, hounded and demonized once again by the global conspiracy “to damage the Resistance”.

Of the many points to make against this outrageously misplaced self-pity and dishonesty, let’s take just the two most obvious:

- A whistleblower is someone who exposes the crimes of the powerful, on behalf of the powerless and innocent. Al Akhbar, by contrast, put the powerless and innocent in potentially lethal danger, the only possible consequence of which is the protection of the guilty and powerful.

- Youssef’s criticism did not come from some morally compromised political bias, but from basic, fundamental respect for the process of international justice. As someone who attended all three days of the MCIJ conference, I can confirm that Youssef’s was not a minority opinion – all legal experts present, most of whom had extensive experience in international tribunals such as the ICTY and ICTR, and had no personal connection to or stake in Lebanese politics, were of the unanimous opinion that anything jeopardising the protection of witnesses was condemnable and a potential breach of the law.

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