Of all the scummy things the Hezbollah and its allies have done during their takeover of West Beirut, the burning of pro-government media outlets is one of the worst. Prominent anti-Syrian media figures have long been the target of political violence: journalists Samir Kassir and Gebran Tueni were assassinated during the 2005 Cedar Revolution, and the television anchor May Chidiac barely survived a car bomb assassination attempt.
This time around, Hezbollah militants have ransacked the media offices of the pro-government Future Movement, headed by Saad Hariri, throughout Beirut. Make no mistake: this is an orchestrated attack. Hezbollah's supporters have destroyed Future Movement TV antennas across the city and threatened pro-government journalists. Most egregiously, they invaded and set fire to the Future Movement newspaper, located in West Beirut. As has become routine, the Lebanese army stood by and watched while these offices were destroyed.
This shows that the pro-Syrian forces do have a perverse understanding of the importance of public relations. It is not enough to control the streets, each side is trying to win "hearts and minds." However, Hezbollah's actions have accomplished just the opposite. Their occupation of Beirut's Sunni areas has shattered whatever remaining goodwill the party retained among non-Shia Lebanese.
Fortunately for Lebanon, its journalists are a hardy breed. The Lebanese Press Club organized a march in solidarity of Future media outlets today -- including, among others, May Chidiac. Mustapha, who blogs at Beirut Spring, has also organized a campaign in solidarity of freedom of the press in Lebanon.
The Lebanese will not surrender without a fight.