Lebanese journalist and former anchorwoman May Chidiac was today declared an IPI World Press Freedom Hero, in recognition of her continued and fearless engagement for the cause of press freedom and independent reporting.
Known for her criticism of Syria’s political sway over Lebanon – an issue not many people dared talk about in Lebanon – May Chidiac nearly lost her life in an assassination attempt in September 2005, which left her badly injured. The attack was one in a series of bombings that wracked Beirut, targeting critics of Syria, and other figures. Among those killed were respected Lebanese journalists Samir Kassir and Gebran Tueni.
At the time of the attack, Chidiac was the main anchor at the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC). Her political talk show, Bi Kol Jor’a, covered political issues in Lebanon and the Middle East. On the day of her attempted assassination, Chidiac had hosted a talk show in which she voiced fears over further violence ahead of the UN report on the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri.
“IPI is honoured to add May Chidiac to the list of its World Press Freedom Heroes,” said IPI Director David Dadge. “May Chidiac’s refusal as a journalist to bow to the threat of violence nearly cost her her life, but has won her admiration around the world for her courage and resilience.”
On 25 September 2005, a bomb detonated as Chidiac entered her car in Jounieh, Lebanon, gravely injuring her. A portion of her left leg and left arm were amputated. After undergoing treatment and numerous operations in Paris, Chidiac returned to Beirut in July 2006, and defiantly reoccupied her spot on her TV show.
On 3 February 2009, in what Lebanon’s The Daily Star defined a “tearful and impromptu on-air announcement” May Chidiac informed viewers that she would be resigning from the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC).
Speaking to IPI after hearing she had been honoured with the IPI World Press Freedom Hero award, May Chidiac said: “I will never regret speaking my mind. […] I have to be the voice of those who are not here anymore. This is now my mission. Nothing will ever stop me from saying the truth and what should be said.
The nomination of May Chidiac was approved by the five-member IPI World Press Freedom Hero jury, which includes:
– Raymond Louw, Editor & Publisher, Southern Africa Report; IPI Fellow (Chair of the Jury)
– N. Ravi, Editor, The Hindu, India; IPI Board Member
– Galina Sidorova, Editor-in-Chief, Sovershenno Secretno, Russia; IPI Board Member
– Ferai Tinc, Columnist, Hürriyet Daily, Turkey; IPI Board Member
– H.D.S. Greenway, Columnist; former Editorial Page Editor, The Boston Globe, Boston, MA; IPI Fellow
Announcing the award, Chairman of the jury Raymond Louw said: “The jury has great difficulty in selecting heroes for the IPI anniversary because so many of those nominated have shown extraordinary bravery and courage in upholding press freedom and dedication to the principle that the public must be informed. A survivor of an assassination attempt, May Chidiac continues to display great courage and determination in keeping people informed.. The jury unanimously chose her as IPI’s 54th hero.”
May Chidiac will be one of 60 World Press Freedom Heroes honoured in a ceremony to commemorate IPI’s 60th year of defending press freedom worldwide, at the IPI World Congress in Vienna and Bratislava, from 11-14 September 2010.
In 2000, on the occasion of IPI’s 50th anniversary, IPI honoured 50 World Press Freedom Heroes at its World Congress in Boston. Two additional press freedom heroes – Hrant Dink, from Turkey, and Anna Politkovskaya, from Russia – were selected by the IPI Executive Board and honoured posthumously in 2006 and 2007 respectively. And last month IPI named slain Sri Lankan journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge its 53rd World Press Freedom Hero. Every month until the IPI World Congress in September, the IPI World Press Freedom Hero jury will select an additional hero to make up the full 60 for this year’s ceremony.