Tueni’s killers go unpunished one year on

New York, December 11, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is dismayed that a year after the assassination of leading Lebanese journalist Gebran Tueni in Beirut, the perpetrators remain at large.

On December 12, 2005, Tueni, managing director and columnist for the leading daily Al-Nahar, was killed by a bomb that targeted his armored vehicle in east Beirut. Tueni was also a member of parliament and harsh critic of Syrian policies. He was killed on the day he returned home from Paris, where he had spent considerable time because of fears for his safety.

To date, his killers have yet to be identified ossr brought to justice. The cases of two other Lebanese journalists, the victims of violent attacks in the last 18 months, also remain unsolved.

Nearly six months before Tueni’s murder, prominent Al-Nahar columnist Samir Qassir was killed outside his home in East Beirut by a bomb placed in his car on June 2, 2005. Qassir had written extensively about the need for Lebanese independence and challenged Syria’s political and military influence in Lebanon. Weeks later, in September of that year, political talk-show host May Chidiac of the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation and a strong critic of Syria, lost an arm and a leg when a bomb exploded under the driver’s seat of her car near the port city of Jounieh.

The three incidents occurred amid a series of assassination attempts and attacks on journalists and political figures in Lebanon following the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri in February 2005.

“Impunity for those who ruthlessly murder journalists stands as one of the gravest threats to press freedoms today,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Those responsible for these heinous attacks must be brought to justice; the failure to do so will have a debilitating effect on the work of all journalists and encourage self-censorship.”

The U.N. Security Council-backed International Independent Investigation Commission is currently probing the Hariri killing.

In October 2005, CPJ urged the U.N. Security Council to expand its investigation to include the “alarming, unsolved attacks against Lebanese journalists” and warned that inaction would “further undermine press freedom in Lebanon and the region and would only encourage further attacks.”

In December of that year the Security Council passed a resolution authorizing the probe to “extend its technical assistance” to Lebanese authorities for their investigations into attacks on journalists and other political figures over the past year. It also called on U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to present recommendations to expand the mandate of the Commission to include investigations of those other attacks.

Simon added: “The Lebanese government and the international community must act to shed light on these appalling attacks and ensure those responsible are brought to justice.”