The killing of a Lebanese newspaper boss and member of Parliament in a Beirut bombing is a “devastating blow” for press freedom said the International Federation of Journalists, which has postponed a regional meeting of journalists’ groups in the city this weekend citing security concerns.
Gebran Tueni, the publisher of the independent An-Nahar newspaper, was among four people killed in the explosion that destroyed his car in the Mekalis area of mainly Christian east Beirut. Police say a parked car packed with explosive blew up as Tueni's car passed.
“This targeted killing shows that media in Lebanon are in the front-line of a new terror campaign against free expression and democracy,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “It comes after a period of sustained criticism of this publisher and his newspaper over Syrian interference in Lebanon. It is a devastating blow for press freedom. The killers must be found and brought to justice.”
The killing took place just a short time before the report of a United Nations special investigator into the February 14 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri was due to go to the United Nations Security Council. Earlier, an interim report said the evidence pointed towards the involvement of Syrian officials and their Lebanese allies in Hariri's killing.
“This latest incident adds to a series of than a dozen bombings and assassinations since the car bomb that killed Hariri,” said White. In June a columnist at An-Nahar, Samir Kassir, who also criticised Syrian policies, was killed by a car bomb.
Lebanese Druze leader and politician Walid Jumblatt says that Gebran Tueni and An-Nahar were being threatened for a long time by Syria and the IFJ says that the hand of regional politics is at work in the affairs of journalism with potentially disastrous consequences for press freedom.
“It appears that all independent journalists and media professionals are under threat. This is the time, more than ever, for professionalism and for an end to political pressure and manipulation of journalists,” said White
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries