Lebanese TV host Neshan Der Haroutiounian is set to stand trial in October after allegedly insulting the Turkish president on live television.
In early June, Neshan, on his popular weekly show “Ana Heik” on Al-Jadeed, called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “a malignant Ottoman,” in response to a tweet from an audience member labeling the host a “refugee.”
He then proceeded to direct his comment at “Erdogan, the [Turkish] regime, the Ottomans, and the Turks,” sparking outrage among Turkey’s supporters and prompting a response from Turkish authorities.
The Lebanese Foreign Ministry said in a statement that, to ensure that “all Lebanese media” respect “the dignity of the Turkish state represented by its president,” Turkish authorities called on their Lebanese counterparts to take legal proceedings against the TV host.
Additionally, the Turkish Embassy in Beirut issued a press release, saying that the remarks made by Der Haroutiounian and his guest Lebanese politician Wiam Wahab on the June 10th episode had offended Erdogan and the Turkish people.
“Such insults can in no case be defended under the pretext of freedom of expression,” the Embassy declared.
Following the incident, Lebanese Lawyer Mohammed Ziad Jaafil filed a lawsuit against Neshan, citing “offending a sister country (Turkey), violating national unity, and stirring sectarian and racist strife.”
The lawyer later revealed the date of the trial to be October 8th, 2020.
In response to the legal proceeding against him, Der Haroutiounian told MTV’s “Sar El Waet” (It’s About Time) that, if it came to it, he would be indifferent toward going to prison.
“If I go to prison, there is no difference; [I] live in a big prison and [I] will move to a small prison, with the difference being that I will be paying for my convictions,” he said.
Notably, the lawsuit gave rise to a social media campaign in support of the famous Lebanese media personality, in which several celebrities and public figures participated.
On the other hand, many pro-Turkey social media users continued to bash the TV host for his remarks, in some cases even directing insults at Armenians in general in order to offend Neshan, who himself hails from Armenia.
It is to note that the Lebanese-Armenians are descents of the Armenians who fled their country to Lebanon during the infamous historical genocide, which took countless lives and dispersed millions of Armenians across the world.
In Lebanon, they are a vital part of the society and as well as of government.
The case of Neshan today has raised outrage across Lebanon, particularly considering that there have been recently major insults to some heads of other friendly countries without any repercussions.