Editor’s murder remains unsolved

New York, December 11, 2008–The Lebanese authorities must bring to justice those responsible for the 2005 assassination of journalist Gebran Tueni, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. 

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 a harsh critic of the neighboring Syrian regime.

Tueni’s assassination occurred nearly six months after a killing under similar circumstances. Samir Qassir, another leading columnist of Al-Nahar and outspoken critic of Syria’s human rights record and influence on Lebanon, was killed outside his home in East Beirut by a bomb placed in his car on June 2, 2005.

To date, the killers of Tueni and Qassir have yet to be identified and brought to justice. Neither have those who masterminded and attempted to carry out the assassination of the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation’s political talk-show host May Chidiac, in September 2005. Chidiac was also a strong critic of Syria’s policies. She lost an arm and a leg when a bomb exploded under the driver’s seat of her car near the port city of Jounieh. Her return to her talk show in 2006 spurred admiration among viewers and colleagues for her courage and determination to carry on with her risky job.

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.

“We are outraged that those who savagely murdered our colleagues Gibran Tueni and Samir Qassir and attempted to kill May Chidiac continue to walk free,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “This grim anniversary is a reminder that those responsible for murdering and attacking journalists must be brought to justice without further delay; the failure to do so will only encourage self-censorship and more attacks on independent journalists, not only in Lebanon but throughout the region.”

Last month, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon informed the U.N. Security Council that the special tribunal it established in 2007 to prosecute individuals responsible for Hariri’s assassination and other deadly attacks, including those on Tueni and Qassir, would be launched on March 1, 2009, in The Hague, according to news reports.

“It is my belief that the impending start of the special tribunal will send a strong signal that the government of Lebanon and the United Nations remain committed to ending impunity in Lebanon,” Ban Ki-moon told reporters.