Timour Azhari, a Lebanese journalist, is on trial over his coverage of the abuse of an Ethiopian migrant worker at the hands of her employers.
In March, Lensa Lelisa alleged that her employers, who run a high end fashion company, were abusing her. In a desperate effort to escape, she jumped from a second floor balcony and broke her legs. She later described her experience in a video on facebook with the help of her aunt while she was in the hospital.
“They beat me everyday with an electric cable and wrapped my hair around their hands and dragged me around the room.”
After being discharged from the hospital she went back to her employer’s house, despite the allegations of abuse. Lelisa later appeared in a TV program where she recanted her story and said it was all an accident.
Migrant domestic workers in Lebanon are forced to work and live in difficult conditions under Lebanon’s sponsorship program. The system grants sponsors, companies or individuals legal powers to control workers, resulting in them being vulnerable to abuse. Without permission, workers cannot change or quit jobs or leave the country.
Azhari was charged with defamation over an article published online and in print editions of the DailyStar, describing Lelisa’s allegations against her employers. The case also covers tweets that he posted while covering a protest in front of her employer’s home and workplace.
Under pressure from authorities, the newspaper took down the article from its website, though it remains available on Azhari’s blog.
Photo: Timour Azhari’s Twitter profile.