Thousands of Lebanese took to streets on Thursday evening, forcing Telecommunication Minister Mohammad Chukair to backtrack on Tax imposed by the government on internet-based phone calls over services like WhatsApp.
The biggest protest took place in Beirut, where thousands gathered in Riad al-Solh Square near the Grand Serail. Other protests took place in several areas across the country, including Tripoli, Bekaa, Sidon and Tyre.
Several roads were cut inside and outside the capital, Beirut, with Lebanese Army soldiers and security were deployed in a bid to ensure security and stability, Al-Manar correspondents across the areas which witnessed protests said.
In Beirut’s Down Town, a shooting incident was reported with protesters saying a bodyguard accompanying Education Minister Akram Chehayeb- belonging t Walid Jumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party (PSP)- fired shots into the air as hundreds of protesters moved through a main road in the Down Town.
Few hours following the demonstrations, Chukair announced that he had dropped the Whatasapp Tax, noting that the move was at the request of Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
The unpopular tax had been approved just a day earlier on internet-based phone calls over services like WhatsApp. Chukair said the $0.20 per day fee to use the popular services would not go into effect, according to local media.
President Michel Aoun also held a phone call with Hariri, with the two men agreed to hold a government session at Baabda Presidential Palace on Friday.
Hezbollah has repeatedly voiced firm rejection to any new taxes imposed by the government against the Lebanese citizen.
Hezbollah MP Hasan Fadlallah reiterated Hezbollah’s stance rejecting new taxes, He urged the Telecommunication Minister to back down on the Watsapp Tax.
As he urged the protesters to abide by the peacefulness of the demonstrations, Fadlallah stressed that the protest is spontaneous and normal reaction by the citizens who have been suffering from the hard life conditions in Lebanon.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah’s Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mahmoud Qmati said that Hezbollah ministers were against the new fee on WhatsApp calls.
“We will do whatever we can do reverse this decision,” he told local TV channel LBCI.
For his part, MP Hussein Hajj Hasan said the government should review its decisions and take the appropriate measures in a bid to contain the anger of citizens.