New York, February 4, 2021 – Lebanese authorities must conduct a thorough investigation into the killing of political commentator Lokman Slim, determine if he was targeted for his journalism, and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Yesterday evening, at about 8:30 p.m., Slim went missing after leaving the home of a friend near the town of Niha, south of Beirut, according to wife Monika Borgman, who spoke to the local news website The National.
Today, Slim was found shot dead in his car on a road between the southern Lebanese villages of Addousiyeh and Tefahta, according to news reports, a report by the state-owned NNA news agency, and a statement by the regional press freedom organization Skeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom.
Slim’s body was transferred to the Sidon Government Hospital after it was found, where a forensic doctor established that he had been shot four times in the head, and once in the back, according to that NNA report.
Slim, a prominent columnist and political commentator known for his stance against the Shia political party and militant group Hezbollah, frequently received threats over his work relating to the group, his wife told The National.
South Lebanon Prosecutor Rahif Ramadan ordered an immediate investigation into the killing, according to the NNA report.
“The brutal execution-style killing of Lokman Slim is a tragic reminder of the risks that critical columnists in Lebanon face when voicing their views,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “Lebanese authorities must do their utmost to determine the motive in this killing, hold the perpetrators to account, and ensure that journalists can work freely and without fear of reprisal.”
After he went missing, employees of the nonprofit Umam Documentation and Research Center, which Borgman and Slim run as co-directors, searched for Slim, and found his cell phone on the outskirts of the village of Srifa, south of Beirut, but did not find him or his vehicle, Borgman told The National.
Slim and Borgman frequently contributed columns commenting on Lebanese politics to the French-language daily newspaper L’Orient Le Jour, including coverage of proposed legislation linked to nationwide protests, criticism of Lebanon’s ruling political parties, and commentary on Iran and Hezbollah. Slim also appeared on TV to comment on political issues, including a recent appearance on the Saudi-funded broadcaster Al-Hadath TV, in which he said he believed Hezbollah played a role in the 2020 Beirut Port explosion.
French-Lebanese journalist Mona Alami, who worked with Slim, wrote in a column for Al-Arabiya, a Saudi-funded broadcaster, that she believed his killing may have been linked to his recent research into alleged money laundering by Hezbollah, and said he was speaking with a source within the group who wanted to defect.
On the days prior to his death, Slim, who is also the co-owner of the publishing house Dar al-Jadeed, had published several posts on his personal Facebook account commenting on the recent anti-government protests in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.
In December 2019, Slim issued a statement saying that he believed Hezbollah to be fully responsible for threats he had received, and for any future attack on him or his family.
After Slim’s death was made public, Jawad Nasrallah, the son of a Hezbollah leader tweeted: “The loss of some people is in fact an unplanned gain #notsorry,” according to The Guardian, which said he later deleted the tweet.
Following the publication of the article, the Hezbollah media office sent a statement to CPJ saying that the organization condemned Slim’s killing and called on authorities to thoroughly investigate it.
CPJ emailed Lebanon’s Interior Ministry for comment, but did not immediately receive any response.
[Editors’ Note: This article has been updated to include the Hezbollah media office’s response.]