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Beirut TV station attacked with rocks for satirical puppet sketch

Attempt to storm Al-Jadeed offices follows airing of sketch about speaker of Lebanon's parliament, Muammar Gaddafi and Ban Ki-moon
A screen grab from Al-Jadeed's live coverage of the attack on their offices (Al-Jadeed)

There has been condemnation in Lebanon over a violent attack that targeted a Beirut television station on Tuesday, after it aired a satirical sketch about the head of the country’s parliament.

Protesters bearing torches gathered outside the second-floor Beirut headquarters of the Al-Jadeed television station on Tuesday night and set fire to a pharmacy on the ground floor beneath the station’s office.

The office's windows were also reportedly smashed after protesters threw rocks. 

The protests came after Al-Jadeed on Monday night aired a satirical clip about the head of Lebanon’s parliament and the disappearance of a revered Shia figure.

The contentious sketch featured a puppet imitating Nabih Berri, who has served as speaker of Lebanon’s parliament since 1992 and is head of the Hope Movement, a political party associated with Lebanon’s Shia Muslim community.

In the sketch, the puppet representing Berri chatted to two other puppets, representing former UN head Ban Ki-moon and late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

A screen grab from the contentious sketch shows puppets representing Muammar Gaddafi and Ban Ki-moon (Al-Jadeed)

During the puppets’ conversation, “Berri” insinuated that he knew the whereabouts of Musa al-Sadr, a Lebanese Shia cleric and politician, who founded Berri’s Hope Movement.

Sadr disappeared during a trip to Libya in 1978 – supporters of the Hope Movement accuse then-leader Muammar Gaddafi of being responsible for his death.

His fate has never been confirmed.

However, in the sketch the puppet representing Berri hints that he secretly knew what happened to Sadr.

It also suggested that Berri had demanded hundreds of millions of dollars to negotiate the release of Gaddafi’s son Hannibal, who was briefly kidnapped by an armed group in Lebanon in 2015.

The sketch led to angry protests by supporters of the Hope Movement, who accuse Al-Jadeed of insulting Berri and Sadr.

Footage shared by the channel showed angry protesters setting fire to a pharmacy beneath the station’s headquarters, chanting “With our souls, with our blood, at your service Musa Sadr.”

A source from the channel told local news site al-Nahar that security forces had repelled more than one attempt by the crowds to storm the building.

The channel appears to have broadcast a live stream from its office of the attack taking place below. 

The violence was condemned on Wednesday by the Lebanese Press Club, which called on authorities to “prevent such events from recurring”.

"The judiciary and the law are the only two means to respond to what you see as defamation against you," it said in a statement.

"Any attack on a journalist or media outlet is unacceptable."

The Union of Media Workers also condemned the attack - the union urged media workers to remain professional and avoid "anything that could inflame sensitivities of certain parts of society," but also denounced Tuesday's attack on Al-Jadeed's headquarters.