Yesterday's WSJ featured an inspiring eulogy to a Lebanese newspaperman, Gebran Tueni, who was assassinated by Syrian-directed assailants. In reading it, I was touched by his courage and integrity, and was again reminded how difficult a task it would be to regain freedom, if we continue to allow it to evaporate here in the West. The whole article is worth reading, but here are a few quotes from it:
In 2000 he had broken his country's long silence by publishing an explicit call for Syria to get its troops out of Lebanon. He had no patience with the press self-censorship that tends to become the rule under jackboot regimes. "If you accept to enter the game of blackmailing, it's your fault," he said. "We try to have an independent paper."
Asked about the dangers of such a stance, he catalogued quickly that he had been shot twice, in 1976 and 1989; kidnapped briefly, in 1976; and exiled in 1990 for three years.
Tueni's defiance of despotic rule extended not only to Syrian occupation but to the presence of Hezbollah in Lebanese politics. He described Hezbollah as "an imported product from Iran. It has nothing to do with Lebanese identity." He went on to explain that Hezbollah is "a direct threat, acting in Lebanon like a state within a state," with "weapons everywhere." Hezbollah, he said, has its enticing side, building hospitals and schools, and providing free education to children of poor families--"but what are they teaching?" Hezbollah's strategy, he said, "Is to transform us into an Islamic republic." Tueni described Iran as providing Hezbollah's weapons and the funding, and Syria as providing "the cover."
An-Nahar's new building had armed guards and bulletproof security shields and doors. But sitting in his corner office with its big picture windows, not far from the spot where Hariri was murdered, Tueni seemed both brave and terribly vulnerable. I asked him if his own life was in danger. He said he expected a wave of Syrian-backed "assassinations, booby-trapped cars," but did not think that could stop Lebanon's democratic movement. "They can kill one, two, three of us" he said, but then they are "finished."