When International Justice Threatens Freedom of the Press

CS. 03

Karma Khayat

In 2012, a list of alleged witnesses before The Hague-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon was left anonymously at Al-Jadeed TV’s HQ in Beirut. Head of News, Karma Khayat, investigated. She produced a documentary containing interviews with several alleged witnesses, whose identities were protected, that revealed major STL failings in witness protection. Yet instead of unveiling measures to enhance witness protection, the tribunal indicted Khayat and Al-Jadeed with Contempt of Court and Obstruction of Justice. If found guilty, Khayat faced a seven-year jail term and 100,000 Euro fine.
Challenge

Khayat and Al-Jadeed hired BTP Advisers to lead an international media relations campaign in their defence. The plan was three-fold: (I) reveal how their indictment threatened Lebanese media freedom; (II) show how Al-Jadeed acted to the standards expected from an internationally award-winning network; and (III) publicise the fact their trial was the first time that any STL indictee would appear in that court (all other cases are on trial in absentia: The first individual personally in the STL dock would be a journalist).

"BTP's experience in Litigation PR is second to none - they are real professionals" Rodney Dixon QC, Temple Garden Chambers 
Work

First, BTP created a press briefing specifically for the media in the US, UK, France and the Czech Republic. A “Free Karma” website was launched in English, French and Arabic. BTP secured meetings with decision-makers in European countries funding the STL, and messages of support from press freedom NGOs, were submitted for distribution.

"They are the industry's finest" Toby Cadman, Barrister, Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers

An Op-Ed from two French and Belgian politicians was published in France as well as another in the US from the International Federation of Journalists. A media tour to London, Paris and Brussels was organised. On this tour Khayat had interviews with The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian, Reuters, AP, AFP, Paris Match, Le Figaro, Les Echos, Nouvel Observateur, BBC, Voice of America, RFI and France 24.

During the trial BTP arranged further interviews for global media covering international trials from The Hague.

"Without BTP's expertise and passion, we couldn’t have made it! Thank you for your dedication, and the faith you had in Al Jadeed TV and Karma Khayat's cause" Al Jadeed TV
Results

Karma Khayat and Al-Jadeed were cleared on all charges. A fine of 10,000 Euros – levied after STL’s claim Al-Jadeed delayed removing the documentary from their website following a Court order – was later withdrawn on appeal.