Lebanon deported a Reuters reporter after questioning him upon arrival at Beirut airport for the start of a press assignment last month, and detained him overnight before putting him on a plane bound for Jordan.
After Al-Khalidi refused to hand over his equipment, he was transferred to a deportation center before being returned to Jordan the next day. Reuters sent a letter to the Lebanese authorities requesting to cancel the decision.
A Reuters spokesperson said in a statement: “We have lodged our protest with Lebanese government officials over the treatment of Reuters journalist Suleiman Al-Khalidi, and we are seeking more information from those authorities who have not provided any explanation for the action they have taken.” He added, “Suleiman’s reports are independent and impartial in line with the principles of trust. Reuters denounces any restrictions placed on journalists seeking to report news in the public interest.”
For its part, the General Directorate of Public Security in Lebanon said in its response that Lebanese law guarantees a free media environment. It did not say whether Khalidi’s deportation would be cancelled. The letter stated that “the decision taken by the General Security regarding Mr. Suleiman Al-Khalidi not to grant him an entry permit to Lebanon is a sovereign decision par excellence, pertaining to the Lebanese state and has nothing to do with his work or his profession.”
The letter described the decision as a refusal to enter rather than a deportation because officials did not put an entry stamp on Khalidi’s passport.
It is noteworthy that Al-Khalidi, who is the chief correspondent for “Routers” in Jordan and Syria, has worked for the agency for 25 years. It covers Jordan and the Syrian conflict, as well as Iraq, Lebanon, Libya and the Gulf.
In 2011, Al-Khalidi was arrested by the Syrian regime authorities after he tried to cover the hot events at the time in the southern governorate of Daraa, the cradle of the Syrian revolution.