Lebanon minister sues TV anchor over on-air gaffe

BEIRUT Fri Jun 15, 2007 11:26am EDT

Plainclothes Lebanese policemen secure an explosion site in Beirut June 13, 2007. REUTERS/Jerry Lampen

Plainclothes Lebanese policemen secure an explosion site in Beirut June 13, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Jerry Lampen

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - Anti-Syrian Lebanese minister Ahmad Fatfat said Friday he sued a television news anchor after she made unwitting remarks on air that he could be the next politician to be killed.

While covering the bomb blast that killed anti-Syrian lawmaker Walid Eido Wednesday, an anchor on the NBN channel of pro-Syrian Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri ridiculed the incident and said Fatfat, the sports minister, would be next.

"I sued because there was an incitement and a call to an assassination on a media outlet," Fatfat told Reuters. "I am using the justice system because I consider it an excellent means of protection."

Sources at the television station said Darweesh was fired. In a statement released Thursday, the station apologized for the "unintentional mistake" and said the incident "does not reflect at all the policies and views of the station."

"The station's administration affirms that it has taken swift measures against the wrongdoers and those responsible for this mistake."

There have been a string of political assassinations targeting anti-Syrian figures starting with the slaying of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in February 2005.

Television audiences could hear the anchor speaking to an off-screen man, saying: "Why were they late until they killed him?" and then both people laugh.

"We are not gloaters," the man says, to which the anchor replies, "It's not gloating, but we're tired of this. There's still Ahmed Fatfat, I'm counting them."

The off-screen man replies, "We still need ... four, five."

Anti-Syrian figures have blamed Damascus for the political killings, although Syria denies involvement. With Eido's assassination, the anti-Syrian coalition movement which holds parliamentary majority, slims to just four.

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