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Lebanese journalist, bomb surviver, awarded prize

Lebanese journalist who survived car bomb attack awarded UN press prize

A Lebanese journalist who lost one of her hands and her left leg in a car bomb attack last September was today named the winner of a top United Nations prize celebrating freedom of the press.

May Chidiac, whose news bulletins and Sunday programmes – Naharkoum Saïd and Bonjour – on LBC (Lebanese Broadcasting Corp.) are among the most widely followed in Lebanon, owes her popularity as much to her professionalism as to her direct and open approach in a country traumatized by years of war, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said.

On the recommendation of an international jury of media professionals, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura designated her winner of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2006.

Created in 1997 by UNESCO’s Executive Board, the prize honours the work of an individual or an organization defending or promoting freedom of expression anywhere in the world, especially if this action puts the individual’s life at risk. The prize is named after Colombian journalist Guillermo Cano, who was assassinated in 1987 after denouncing the activities of powerful drug barons in his country.

The car bomb attack on Ms. Chidiac, leading to the amputation of a hand and her left leg, shook Lebanese popular opinion, which came to view the journalist as a symbol of freedom of expression. It closely resembled the fatal attack on Samir Kassir, a journalist from the daily An Nahar, five months earlier and another similar attack in December on the editor of An-Nahar, Gebran Tueni.

UNESCO is the only UN agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression and press freedom, and just yesterday Mr. Matsuura deplored the assassination of a Colombian journalist, the latest in a long series of condemnations of the murder of journalists around the world that he has issued in recent months.

Gustavo Rojas Gabalo, 56, host of a satirical programme on radio Panzenú for over 30 years during which he denounced corruption involving the administration and political representatives from the department of Cordoba, was grievously wounded by two unknown gunmen on 4 February and succumbed to his injuries on 19 March.

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