I returned from New York a few days ago. There I had followed the initial repercussions that accompanied and followed the release of the Mehlis report about the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri that included the conclusions reached by the international investigator with reference to this crime.
The porter of my residence in Beirut was surprised about a number of issues, most pressing and intriguing however was the sharp and intense attack by journalists on Mehlis due to the questions raised, and the publishing of two drafts of the report that were leaked before their time. How could an American journalist boldly ask Mehlis, "Why should I believe you?" The difficult and sharp questions asked by journalists seemed incomprehensible for the porter who is a normal simple man. Mehlis was more or less subjected to full interrogation during that press conference.
"Why should I believe you?" Undoubtedly, directing such a suspicious question in such an offensive tone to a person of such status is something we are not used to in our countries. The issue here is not whether Mehlis”s report was correct or false. Furthermore, the official should never be able to intimidate journalists, as their responsibility is to ask questions and reveal the truth. It is crucial that any journalist feels that he is entitled to the truth and that he is empowered to trace any one who tries to hide information from the public.
Mehlis was besieged by a wave of precise questions: when did he meet the Secretary General Annan? Who attended that meeting? When were certain names omitted from the report? Was Mehlis under pressure in writing this report?
When the German investigator walked into the conference room, he was sure that he would be criticized for the disclosure of the two reports. However, he did not expect such intense harshness. The only reason he re-issued a statement that clarified the date of his meeting with Annan and the people who were present at the meeting is that he felt shaken by the questions of the journalists and obliged to offer a clarification.
The same method was taken by the media spokesman of Annan. After also being subjected to the interrogation of journalists, he offered an explanation for the details of the disclosure of the two reports. After coming under fierce attack, he said loudly, "Believe me it was not a conspiracy, it was a mistake made by some employees."
In a press conference that was held in Beirut the journalists asked Mehlis general questions. A press analyst argued that this press conference should be used as an example in mass media faculties of how press conferences should not be. I would not go as far as to say that Mehlis”s press conference in New York should be studied, but it should at least be looked at.