The lessons of Gebran Tueni’s assassination

December 18, 2016

It has been 11 years since the assassination of Gebran Ghassan Tueni, a former member of parliament and a journalist, in Beirut and there is no need for more questions. The party behind this assassination is quite well-known.

It is the same party behind the car bombing that took the lives of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and his companions on February 14th, 2005 — the same year as Tueni’s death. It is the same party behind other killings and the series of bomb­ings that followed Hariri’s assassination with the purpose of starting conflict between Mus­lims and Christians in Lebanon.

Those who remember the period following Hariri’s assassi­nation recall bombings in several locations with Christian majori­ties. It was intended to cover up the crime and drag Lebanon back to the war years of 1975-76, hoping to sell once again the disastrous idea of self-security to Lebanese Christians.

We know who killed Tueni and we know why. All we have to do is look at the current sorry state of the Lebanese daily an-Nahar. It is a far cry from its former glory and symbolic importance in Lebanon and the Arab world with Tueni at its helm.

Tueni was assassinated with the intention of assassinating the press in Lebanon. The Lebanese media live in an acute crisis. Recently, the daily as-Safir said it would close permanently by the end of 2016.

While it is difficult to draw a parallel between the crisis at an-Nahar and the one at as-Safir, it remains nevertheless true that the aim at the end of the day is to silence Beirut. Regardless of as-Safir’s controversial editorial line, it was still a well-managed and professionally run paper.

As-Safir represented a specific political orientation and followed a specific editorial line fixed by its owner Talal Salman. Many say the paper had refused to recog­nise Lebanon’s specificities and its ability to resist and endure. The resistance referred to relates to life in general and not specifi­cally to the Palestinian cause.

In the end, however, the paper is part of Lebanon’s specificities. It was thanks to these specifici­ties that the paper thrived and gained importance inside and outside of Lebanon.

It is undeniably clear that Tueni’s assassination was a message to all newspapers in Lebanon and not just to an- Nahar. Nothing happens by chance in Lebanon. In plain and simple terms, the assassination was part of a plan aiming at drowning the country in misery and chaos. Every successful institution or business in the country was targeted.

Before Tueni, Samir Kassir was assassinated. Kassir, a university professor and journalist, chal­lenged the security establish­ment in Lebanon and played a key role in the success of the Cedar Revolution, which resulted in booting the Syrian forces out of Lebanon. Kassir was not an ordinary person. He was a pillar figure in an-Nahar and pushed the agenda of liberating Lebanon from Syrian guardianship.

Before Kassir, there was an attempt on the life of Marwan Hamadeh, a politician, journalist and Tueni’s uncle, in October 2004. The message was intended for an-Nahar, Hariri and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt. They had all voiced opposition to the Syrian presence in Lebanon.

Each martyr in the Cedar Revolution has a story to tell but they were all killed because they refused to let Lebanon be absorbed and erased from the map. So, it was not surprising to witness a rash of bombings, assassinations, skirmishes, sit-ins and luring of a maximum number of people outside of Lebanon.

These acts of violence were aimed at erasing Lebanon from the map after it had been rein­stalled there by Hariri and only Hariri.

It was thanks to Hariri that an-Nahar was able to resist the pressures — with Syrian Presi­dent Bashar Assad forcing Hariri to relinquish his shares at the newspaper. It was thanks to Hariri that an-Nahar got its imposing building in downtown Beirut. It was also thanks to Hariri that Arab and Gulf-coun­tries citizens returned to Leba­non and could enjoy its many pleasures, including reading an-Nahar. With Hariri, Beirut regained its status as the Jewel of the Mediterranean.

In 2016, the crisis in Lebanon is beyond an-Nahar. With the disappearance of Tueni, the Lebanese press is still at risk. He represented both an-Nahar and an-Nahar’s competitors.