IFJ Condemns Political Assassination of Leading Beirut Journalist

The International Federation of Journalists today condemned the assassination of leading columnist Samir Kassir working for the An-Nahar newspaper, who was killed when his car blew up in Beirut, Lebanon.

Earlier this morning, Kassir was killed when a device left under the driver's seat of his car exploded while he was in the Christian neighbourhood of Achrafieh. The attack came four days after the start of the country’s parliamentary election which will continue until 19 June.

“Samir was a true ally of free expression and those behind his murder must be brought to justice,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “It appears that he has been singled out for a politically-motivated assassination”.

In his last column, which appeared on An-Nahar's front page on Friday, Kassir criticized Syria's lack of desire to enact rapid change, saying: "Reform for the [ruling] Ba'athists does not mean accepting opposing views." "The huge regional changes from Iraq to Lebanon only drive them [the Ba'athists] to warn of US dangers without thinking for a minute of the best ways to prevent this danger."

Kassir was the most prominent Lebanese figure to be killed since the 14 February assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which plunged the country into its worst political crisis since the 1975-1990 war.

Anti-Syrian groups were quick to blame Damascus and its Lebanese allies for his murder, alleging the involvement of the Syrian-backed President, Emile Lahoud.

“Journalists around the world will want to see action to find the killers and bring them to justice,” said White. “This is an intolerable assault on the movement for democratic reform not just in Lebanon but throughout the Arab World”.

Kassir had been writing columns for the past 10 years with An-Nahar, a daily Arabic newspaper and was married to Giselle Khoury, another prominent Lebanese journalist working for Al-Arabiya and currently residing in the United States. He was well-known for his anti-Syrian positions and his criticism of the "Lebanese police state" and had been harassed and threatened for years.

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The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries