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French Version

Lebanon marks Press Martyrs Day

'One of countries where freedom of expression is most attacked'

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora called Lebanon "one of the countries where freedom of expression is most attacked" in remarks at a ceremony on the occasion of Press Martyrs Day Saturday. The ceremony at the Press Federation headquarters was one of many held throughout the country to honor journalists and others killed in the name of free speech.

"As long as we work for the freedom of expression, the country will survive and the Lebanese people will live in peace," Siniora said.

"However, I believe that freedom will always be the basis of the country."

Press Federation president Mohammed Baalbaki said that late former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was "one of the biggest supporters of the freedom of the press and helped the federation in its efforts to cancel all the laws that imposed restrictions on the press."

Another ceremony was held on Saturday by the League to Honor Martyrs in Tallet al-Druze, where the representatives of the three top officials laid wreaths on the martyrs' tombs.

The event was attended by Minister Tarrad Hamade, MP Qassem Hashem and Minister Khaled Qabbani, representing President Emile Lahoud, Speaker Nabih Berri and Siniora respectively, in addition to Baalbaki and Journalists Union president Melhem Karam.

Elsewhere, media workers and students paid tribute to anti-Syrian journalists targeted by a series of assassinations by participating in a rally organized by the Press Club.

The rally was held on Saturday to honor late journalist Samir Kassir, late MP and former director general of An-Nahar Gebran Tueni, prominent anchorwoman May Chidiac and Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamade.

Participants in the rally stopped at six stations before gathering at Martyrs Square, where a ceremony was organized with the support of Information Minister Ghazi Aridi and Acting Youth and Sports Minister Ahmad Fatfat.

The stations included Renee Mouawad Garden in Sanayeh; AUST University and Future TV building in Hamra; Free Lebanon radio station; Dbayyeh's maritime boulevard; and the LBC headquarters in Adma.

In a speech delivered at Martyrs Square, Aridi hailed the "journalists who sacrificed their lives for the sake of a free and democratic country," and added a tribute to all Lebanese media workers.

At the end of the ceremony, winners received gifts that included trips to Amsterdam, Athena and Varna and a cruise on board the Orient Queen.

Meanwhile, Sidon MP Bahia Hariri honored female journalists during a banquet held Sunday at her residence in Majdalyoun, in the presence of Information Minister Ghazi Aridi. The attendees also included Tueni's daughter, journalist Nayla Tueni, and Kassir's widow, journalist Gisele Khoury.

Speaking on the occasion, Hariri stressed the Lebanese "are facing the challenge of preserving our freedom and Arab identity, for which the martyrs offered their lives."

She also paid tribute to the "martyrs of the press, who stood against all obstacles to achieve Lebanon's democracy."

Beirut,05 09 2006
Therese Sfeir
The Daily Star
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