4French TV broadcaster Christine Ockrent yesterday hosted a Reporters Without Borders evening of solidarity with Lebanon, where newspaper journalists Samir Kassir and Gebran Tueni were murdered last year and Lebanese TV presenter May Chidiac was maimed by a bomb. Relatives of the victims and leading French and Lebanese figures took part in the event, held in the Orsay Museum auditorium in Paris, and paid homage to the victims.


Tueni, who is a journalist at her father’s newspaper, An-Nahar, said he was “the man who said out loud what hundreds of thousands of Lebanese were thinking to themselves.” His killers, she said, had wanted to silence someone who was telling his compatriots : “We, Christians and Muslims. . . united until death for the freedom and solidarity of our Lebanon.” This was a much-repeated slogan during the Beirut spring of March 2005.

Khoury, a presenter at the TV station Al Arabiya, called her late husband, Kassir, “a martyr of the palace of the word,” saying he spent all his life relating what was happening in Beirut. He was full of praise for a “modern and tolerant Beirut, a city in love with freedom, which wanted to be sovereign and free of any external meddling.” She added that she expected a lot from the French investigation into his death.

Baaklini read out a message from her sister, Chidiac, who could not attend herself because yesterday evening she was undergoing her 21st operation since last September’s bomb attack.

Former French foreign minister Barnier said he was impressed by these “two journalists who stood up and put their lives at risk in order to participate in the awakening of an entire people, in order to demand legitimate sovereignty and freedom for their country.”

Kouchner reiterated his faith in justice, stressing that even if it “is sometimes slow, it is tenacious, and the guilty will be pursued and arrested.”

Salamé appealed for action, pointing out that, “the two journalists were not killed by stray bullets, they were clearly identified and their death came about because they were the bearers of a message.” He added that “political assassination must not be a weapon of government.”

Maalouf compared Lebanon to a rose bush : “If you get close to the flowers, you can scratch your hands and produce blood. But even if that happens, take the time to caress the flowers.” He also called his country a synthesis of the best and the worst. “Lebanon found its reason for existence in the mosaic of its inhabitants, cultural diversity and free expression, but with the war it entered an era of communal tension, withdrawal and destruction,” Maalouf said, adding, “we must ensure that this era is just the thorn that announces the beauty of the next flowers.” 

Ménard said : “The injuries inflicted on Lebanon have a particular impact because of its historic friendship with France but also, in these three cases, because of Reporters Without Borders’ very close ties with Gebran Tueni and Samir Kassir.”