Protesters Storm Saudi Daily's Beirut Office over 'Lebanese Flag' Cartoon

A group of young men on Friday stormed the Beirut offices of the Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat in protest at a cartoon deemed insulting to Lebanon.

A video posted on social media shows the protesters arguing with Lebanese employees and asking them to stage a strike to condemn the published cartoon.

Some of the protesters then move to the office's desks and start pushing stacks of newspapers to the ground, unfazed by the employees' appeals.

The protesters were led by well-known social media activists Pierre al-Hashash and Abbas Zahri. Hashash posted a video of the incident on his Facebook page.

According to the video and state-run National News Agency, the protesters also included civil society activists Hassan Qteish, Bilal Allaw, Mohammed Hirz and a man from the Zeineddine family who is a cameraman at al-Jadeed TV.

Security forces arrived at the scene later and listened to the testimonies of three employees who were at the offices on the eleventh floor of central Beirut's Burj al-Ghazal tower.

“Detectives took pictures of the storming's aftermath and Beirut's public prosecution office will be informed of the details,” NNA said.

“The rioters will be prosecuted and arrested at the request of the judiciary,” the agency added.

The cartoon published Friday by Asharq al-Awsat shows Lebanon's flag and the words “The Lebanese State: An April Fools' Lie.”

In a statement, the newspaper condemned the incident as a “barbaric attack,” holding Lebanese authorities responsible for the safety of its employees.

The daily, however, noted that its relation with “its dear readers in Lebanon will not be affected by these attacks that do not represent the Lebanese people,” promising that it will continue to “cover Lebanese events through its Beirut office.”

The newspaper also voiced “regret” over “the controversy about the cartoon that was published in today's edition,” noting that “some people have interpreted it in a wrong way.”

“Asharq al-Awsat stresses its respect for Lebanon and notes that the cartoon was aimed at highlighting the situation that the State is going through in a country that is living a big lie caused by the attempts to impose hegemony on it and push it away from its Arab neighborhood,” the daily added.

Later on Friday, NNA said Beirut's public prosecution office has launched a probe into the incident and that it intends to summon the individuals who stormed the offices.

The development comes hours after the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel shut down its Beirut offices, citing “difficult circumstances” and “safety” concerns.

Al-Arabiya's move comes amid tensions between the kingdom and Lebanon's Hizbullah and follows a series of Saudi measures against Lebanon and the Iran-backed party.


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