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Lebanese journalist, free expression promoter wins 2007 Gebran Tueni Award

(WAN/IFEX) - The following is a 9 December 2007 WAN press release:

Lebanese Journalist Wins Arab Newspaper Award

Beirut, Lebanon, 9 December 2007 - Michel Hajji Georgiou, a senior political analyst 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 that honours an editor or publisher in the Arab region.

Mr. Hajji Georgiou, who is a member of the newspaper's editorial board and chief of its yearly political supplement, received the award Sunday (9 December) during the opening ceremony of the 2nd Arab Free Press Forum in Beirut, Lebanon, before 1,500 attendees and a national television audience.

The prize, which honours the memory of Gebran Tueni, the Lebanese publisher and WAN Board Member who was killed by a car bomb in Beirut in December 2005, was presented to Mr. Hajji Georgiou for demonstrating the values upheld by Mr Tueni: attachment to freedom of the press, courage, leadership, ambition and high managerial and professional standards.

Mr. Hajji Georgiou dedicated the award to his colleagues at L'Orient-Le Jour and to jailed journalists and prisoners of conscience, including Michel Kilo, who is being held in a Syrian jail for signing a petition that condemns political assassinations to silence dissent. The petition was published in Lebanon in the Tueni family newspaper, An-Nahar.

The award was presented by Thomas Brunegard, WAN Vice President and CEO of the Stampen Group in Sweden, who said: "By extending the Gebran Tueni Award to Mr. Hajii Georgiou, the World Association of Newspapers wishes to acknowledge his commitment to press freedom, and his determination to defend independent journalism in Lebanon."

The award carries a 10,000 Euro scholarship to enable Mr. Hajji Georgiou to undertake advanced newspaper leadership training.

The inaugural prize, presented in 2006, was awarded to Nadia al-Saqqaf, Editor-in-chief of the Yemen Times.

Mr. Hajji Georgiou joined L'Orient-Le Jour in 1999 and became chief editor of its political supplement in 2005.

The newspaper has been a major contributor to intellectual and political debate in Lebanon and takes bold editorial stands regarding the government, Lebanon's relationship with Syria, and Hezbollah and other radical groups. Mr. Hajji often writes about freedom of expression, calling it "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."

Gebran Tueni was a unique figure in WAN affairs for almost 20 years, as a leading member of its Press Freedom Committee, a Board member for more than a decade, a regular participant in missions to press freedom "hot spots" and a constant advisor and support to the leadership of the organisation on Arab and press freedom issues. WAN and the Tueni family created the award to encourage other courageous and independent publishers, editors and newspapers in the Arab world.

More on the Arab Free Press Forum can be found at:
http://www.wan-press.org/tueni_award/articles.php?id=1097

The Paris-based WAN, the global organisation for the newspaper industry, defends and promotes press freedom and the professional and business interests of newspapers world-wide. Representing 18,000 newspapers, its membership includes 77 national newspaper associations, newspaper companies and individual newspaper executives in 102 countries, 12 news agencies and 11 regional and world-wide press groups.

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