Michael Totten

A Hazardous Profession

Lebanon, nearly alone in the Arab world, has a free press. The country is no longer ruled by an unelected foreign dictatorship. Its parliament is national, democratic, and sovereign.
But loose agents of the ancien régime are still active, and they’re doing their damnest to violently intimidate journalists into submission.

BEIRUT (Reuters) – A prominent anti-Syrian news anchor was seriously wounded when her car exploded in Lebanon on Sunday, fuelling fears of a slide into violence as the U.N. wraps up a probe into the murder of an ex-prime minister.
May Chidiac, 43, a Christian journalist, is a familiar face to Lebanese. She had hosted a talk show earlier in the day to discuss public fears of more violence ahead of the U.N. investigators presenting their report, expected next month.
A security source said the bomb weighed around 500 grams (one pound) and was planted beneath Chidiac’s white four-wheel-drive. It exploded as she was getting in, wrecking the car.
Doctors said her left leg beneath the knee was blown off in the blast, which also set hair and clothes ablaze. They also operated to try to save her left hand. She was in a stable condition in hospital on Sunday night.

Earlier reports said she had an arm and a leg amputated, which turned out not to be true. It looks like she’s still in bad shape, but at least she’s alive and has more than two limbs.
I met dozens of Lebanese in April during the Cedar Revolution. They are tough, brave, and war-hardened — not at all the sort to cringe or back down from a fight.
The campaign to silence their journalists is not very effective. If it were effective the culprits could dryly smack their hands together, say that’s that, and find someone else to pick on for a change. The fact that they still feel threatened by journalists is a good indication that the Lebanese media is doing excellent work.
I take personal selfish comfort in the fact that so far all the targeted journalists write and broadcast in Arabic. Beirut’s English-language newspaper The Daily Star published article after article sharply critical of the Syrian regime even throughout the occupation. As far as I know, no one on its staff has been harmed, nor have any foreign journalists ever been harmed.
UPDATE: Anonymous blogger “Lebanon.Profile” over at the Lebanese Political Journal wonders if some dark force is trying to engineer the perfect storm.