CPJ urges Annan to widen murder probe to attacks on 3 journalists

New York, December 16, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists today urged United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to work to broaden a U.N. investigation into the murder of former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri to include bomb attacks on three Lebanese journalists. The United Nations Security Council authorized Annan on Thursday to make recommendations for expanding the Hariri investigation to other attacks on Lebanese civilians.

It unanimously passed a resolution extending by six months the mandate of the International Independent Investigation Commission into the February 14, 2005 bombing death of Hariri. The resolution also authorized the Commission to “extend its technical assistance” to Lebanese authorities for their investigations into attacks on journalists and other political figures over the past year. It called on Annan to “present recommendations to expand the mandate of the Commission to include investigations of those other attacks.”

The resolution renewed the mandate of the current investigation and also followed a request this week by Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora for either an expansion of the Commission’s mandate or the establishment of a new investigation that would include other attacks. Siniora’s call came after a car bomb on December 12 killed Al-Nahar publisher and columnist, and member of parliament, Gebran Tueni, in Beirut. Although the resolution falls short of outright approval for an extended investigation into other attacks, the Committee to Protect Journalists called it “a step in the right direction.” The resolution marked the first time that the Security Council had linked the Hariri probe with other murders and attempted assassinations in Lebanon, including those of at least three prominent journalists.

“We are hopeful that this resolution will pave the way for expanding the U.N. inquiry to address other appalling attacks on civilians in recent months, including those against journalists,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We trust that Secretary-General Annan will work quickly with the Commission to help ensure that these attacks receive the international scrutiny that they deserve. Doing so will send a powerful message that the international community will not tolerate such brazen attacks that jeopardize press freedom and freedom of expression.”

Following Tueni’s murder CPJ renewed its call for the Security Council (See CPJ’s October 11 letter to the U.N. Security Council) to expand the U.N. investigation of Hariri’s murder to include the unsolved deaths and attacks on journalists. Since Hariri’s assassination and the launch of the U.N. inquiry, Samir Qassir, a prominent columnist in the daily Al-Nahar was killed in one car bombing, and a Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation talk show host May Chidiac was maimed in another. The Lebanese opposition has blamed the attacks on Syria, which has denied them.