The United Nations has named May Chidiac, a Lebanese journalist who was severely wounded in an attempt on her life, the winner of a prize celebrating press freedom.
Chidiac was a popular anchorwoman for the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, a Christian-owned channel which has been outspoken against Syria’s domination of Lebanon.
She was wounded on September 25, 2005 when assailants planted a bomb under her car which exploded as she turned on the ignition. She suffered severe burns all over her body and had a leg and an arm amputated.
The international community condemned the attack which was part of a series of bombings against outspoken anti-Syrian figures in Lebanon.
Director General of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Koïchiro Matsuura designated Chidiac winner of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2006, on the recommendation of an international jury of media professionals.
May Chidiac “owes her popularity as much to her professionalism as to her direct and open approach in a country traumatized by years of war,” UNESCO said.
The prize honors 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.
Following domestic and international pressure, Syria ended its 29-year presence in Lebanon in April 2005, but many fear that pro-Syrian elements remain in Lebanon and are trying to undermine the country’s stability.