Lebanon to probe pound-dollar rumours after protests

A youth man boy rides his motorbike near burning tires during a sit-in protest against the fall in pound currency and mounting economic hardship, in Ghazieh, Lebanon June 12, 2020. — Reuters pic
A youth man boy rides his motorbike near burning tires during a sit-in protest against the fall in pound currency and mounting economic hardship, in Ghazieh, Lebanon June 12, 2020. — Reuters pic

BEIRUT, June 16 — Lebanon’s public prosecutor today ordered a probe into rumours on social media on the plunge in value of the local currency that sparked three nights of violent protests.

Hundreds took to the streets from last Thursday to Saturday after the dollar exchange rate soared to almost 5,000 Lebanese pounds on the black market, according to money dealers, despite officially remaining pegged at 1,507 pounds.

Some local media or social posts reported the rate had reached as much as 6,000 or 7,000 pounds to the greenback.

A prosecutor ordered an investigation into “the spreading Thursday, by a number of people, of information on social media and other means of publication on a lack of dollars in the market and the increase of its exchange rate to 7,000 pounds to sow confusion and panic”, the National News Agency said.

The result was “extra incitement for people to withdraw their bank deposits in the Lebanese currency to buy dollars... and an unjustified increase in the price of consumer goods”, NNA said.

Lebanon is in the grips of an economic crisis, its worst since the 1975-1990 war, that in the autumn sparked protests against a political elite accused of incompetence and corruption.

Banks have since gradually limited dollar withdrawals, forcing those in need to resort to much higher exchange rates from money changers.

Last week, the authorities said they would inject dollars into the market to bring down the exchange rate.

Yesterday, the public prosecutor also ordered a probe to identify those behind “posts or photos harming... the presidency” in view of pressing defamation charges, NNA said, sparking an outcry on social media. — AFP

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