Lokman Slim

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On February 3, 2021, at about 8:30 p.m., Lebanese political commentator, columnist, and activist Lokman Slim went missing after leaving the home of a friend near the town of Niha, south of Beirut, according to his wife, Monika Borgmann, who spoke to the regional news website The National.

The following day, Slim was found shot dead in his car on a road between the southern Lebanese villages of Addousiyeh and Tefahta, according to news reports, including by the state-owned NNA news agency, and a statement by the regional press freedom organization the Skeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom. 

Slim’s body was transferred to the Sidon Government Hospital, 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 was last seen leaving the house of a friend near the village of Niha, 12 miles west of the southern Lebanese city of Tyre, Borgmann told The National. Between the time he went missing and when his body was found, employees of the nonprofit Umam Documentation and Research Center, which Borgmann and Slim run as co-directors, searched for Slim and found his cell phone on the outskirts of the village of Srifa, one mile north of Niha, Borgmann added. The NNA report said that Slim’s body was found about 18 miles north of Niha.

Slim, a prominent columnist and political commentator known for his stance against the Shia political party and militant group Hezbollah, frequently received threats for his work relating to the group, his wife told The National. 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.

Slim and Borgmann 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 an appearance on the Saudi-funded broadcaster Al-Hadath TV, in which he said he believed Hezbollah bore some responsibility for the 2020 Beirut port explosion.

Slim and Borgmann also co-directed the documentary films “Massaker,” which interviewed perpetrators of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre, and “Tadmor,” a film portraying Lebanese nationals who were held for years in Syria’s infamous Tadmor prison, according to AFP.

On the days prior to his death, Slim, who is also the co-owner of Dar al-Jadeed, a publisher of poetry, novels, and essays, had written several posts on his personal Facebook account commenting on the recent anti-government protests in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.

Rasha al-Ameer, Slim’s sister, told CPJ via messaging app that, prior to his death, Slim was working on several projects for the Umam Documentation and Research Center, including a research project on prisons in the region. She said his work at Dar al-Jadeed included the publication of a book by prominent Syrian intellectual and political activist Yassin al-Haj Saleh, a vocal critic of Syrian President Bashar al-Asad, and the works of Lebanese journalist Iskandar al-Riashi.

“He also conducted research on Hezbollah. He often appeared on TV to speak up about Hezbollah’s funding and their sources or about the port explosion and the ammonium nitrate. He knew everybody. He knew plenty about them,” al-Ameer said.

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.

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.

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.

Based on where his car was found, Rasha al-Ameer said she believed he may have been kidnapped, according to reports.

South Lebanon Prosecutor Rahif Ramadan ordered an immediate investigation into the killing, according to the NNA report. News reports also said that security forces were investigating whether he had potentially been abducted.

CPJ emailed Lebanon’s Interior Ministry for comment, but did not receive any response.