Lebanon bans Israeli journalist

Oct. 18, 2002 at 10:32 AM

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- An Israeli journalist Friday was banned from further media activity at the 9th Francophonie summit in Beirut after his presence angered Lebanese journalists.

Gedeon Cotes, who also is French, had traveled with the French media delegation to cover the summit.

A Lebanese TV cameraman at the media center in downtown Beirut recognized Cotes from a picture published Friday in Lebanon's As Safir newspaper. Soon, a group of journalists gathered around Cotes, asking him whether he was Israeli and whether he was a reporter for Israeli Channel 2 television station.

According to As Safir, Cotes had appeared on the Israeli channel Thursday night to report about French President Jacques Chirac's visit to Lebanon.

At the media center, Cotes repeated that he was "a French journalist and not more," but refused to say whether he was an Israeli.

A group of Lebanese journalists started to shout, saying he should not have been allowed into the country.

Security officers for French President Jacques Chirac and Lebanese President Emile Lahoud rushed to escort Cotes back to the hotel where the French delegation was staying.

A Lebanese security official told United Press International that Cotes's presence caused chaos after he accused the Lebanese journalists of being hostile.

A statement released by the media center's security said the French delegation was informed that Cotes was not allowed to "carry out any media activity and is prevented from entering the press center."

The statement said the French showed understanding and promised to take the necessary measures. However, the French delegation was unavailable for comment.

Cotes joined the French media delegation as a reporter for the L'Arche newspaper, affiliated with the French Jewish community. He refrained from saying he was also a reporter of Israeli Channel 2.

One of Cotes's French colleagues told United Press International a journalist should be able to do his job as long as he abided by the rules, regardless of his nationality.

A reporter of Lebanon's al-Manar, the Hezbollah-run television station, said Cotes presence in Beirut was "a provocation and a challenge to the Lebanese."

"Naturally, we are against his presence here. He is an Israeli in Lebanon and working for an Israeli media," said the reporter, who wished not to be named.

Lebanon is still in a state of war with Israel. Hezbollah has fought Israeli occupying forces in south Lebanon until forcing their withdrawal in May 2000 after 22 years.

(With reporting by Samar Kadi)

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