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A journalist at the French-language daily "L'Orient-Le Jour" in Lebanon has been awarded the 2007 Gebran Tueni Award, the annual prize from the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) that honours a courageous and independent editor or publisher in the Arab region.

Michel Hajji Georgiou, a member of the newspaper's editorial board and chief of its yearly political supplement, received the award for his determination to defend independent journalism in Lebanon. The newspaper "takes bold editorial stands regarding the government, Lebanon's relationship with Syria, and Hezbollah and other radical groups," says WAN.

Hajji Georgiou has called freedom of expression "the soul of a democratic system. It is Lebanon's added value in an Arab world often made of tyrannies, and abandoned to intellectual desertification."

Receiving the award at the Arab Free Press Forum on 9 December, Hajji Georgiou dedicated the award to his colleagues and to jailed journalists and prisoners of conscience, including Syrian Michel Kilo, who is being held in a Syrian jail for signing a petition that called for better relations with Lebanon. At the forum, participants denounced Syria and other governments that had prevented some participants from attending the event.

The prize honours the memory of Gebran Tueni, the Lebanese publisher, WAN Board Member and press freedom advocate who was killed by a car bomb in Beirut in 2005. It carries a 10,000 Euro (US$14,700) scholarship to enable Hajji Georgiou to undertake advanced newspaper leadership training.

Read more about the award and the Arab Free Press Forum here:

(11 December 2007)

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