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ASSASSINATIONS HAUNT THE PRESS

In Lebanon, journalists who criticise Syria's influence in the country do so at great risk. Since April 2005, three have been targeted for assassination. The latest victim was news anchor May Chidiac, who was seriously wounded when a bomb exploded in her car near the city of Jounieh on 25 September, reported the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF).

Chidiac hosts a political talk show for the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation and is known for her fiery criticism of Syria. On the morning of the attack, she hosted a show that addressed Syria's possible involvement in the February 2005 murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and public fears of violence ahead of a U.N. report on the assassination, reported CPJ.

Chidiac is reportedly in critical but stable condition. She lost an arm and a leg in the explosion.

Ten days prior, Ali Ramez Tohme, a journalist who had recently published a book about Hariri, escaped a similar assassination attempt. A bomb exploded under the driver's seat of his car, but he was not in the vehicle. Tohme found a statement threatening to kill him outside his parent's home in Mazboud. It was signed by Jund Ash-Sham, a terrorist group that claims responsibility for Hariri's murder.

On 2 June, popular newspaper columnist Samir Qassir was killed when a bomb exploded in his car outside his Beirut home. Qassir was a vocal critic of Syria and its policies in Lebanon. His columns in the newspaper "Al-Nahar" helped inspire massive public protests that forced Syria to begin withdrawing troops from the country in April.

IFJ has called on Lebanese authorities and the U.N. to carry out a special investigation into the attempted assassination of Chidiac and the murder of Qassir and to provide greater protection for journalists working in the country.

Syria has played a significant role in Lebanon's politics and exerts considerable pressure on the Lebanese media, notes CPJ. Press criticism of Syria has been suppressed during most of the 29 years that Syria has stationed troops in the country.

Visit these links:
- IFJ: http://www.ifj.org/default.asp?Index=3394&Language=EN
- CPJ Report on Lebanon: http://www.cpj.org/attacks04/mideast04/lebanon.html
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=15130
- Killings Haunt Lebanese Journalists: http://tinyurl.com/aog3p
- Clues Emerge in Chidiac Case: http://tinyurl.com/7advh

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