A cedar of Lebanon was planted in the square in front of the Paris city hall today in homage to Samir Kassir, a journalist with French and Lebanese dual citizenship who was murdered in Beirut on 2 June. The ceremony was organised by Reporters Without Borders, the Kassir family and the Paris city administration.
A cedar of Lebanon was planted in the square in front of the Paris city hall today in homage to Samir Kassir, a journalist with French and Lebanese dual citizenship who was murdered in Beirut on 2 June. The ceremony was organised by Reporters Without Borders, the Kassir family and the Paris city administration. City of Paris representative Christian Sautter, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard and two of Kassir's friends, Farouk Mardam-Bey and Mahmoud Harb, spoke at the ceremony about Kassir and his commitment to peace and democracy, and about the continuing risks for journalists in Lebanon. A former economy minister, Sautter hailed the memory of a Lebanese intellectual who was killed for defending democratic values. He added that he was also paying tribute to a French citizen on behalf of the mayor of Paris. After voicing support for Kassir's widow and children, Ménard reported that French judge Jean-Louis Bruguière was still actively investigating the murder and planned to visit Lebanon at the beginning of next year. “It's now six months since Samir Kassir was murdered and we are determined to stay mobilised until this case is solved,” he added. Mardam-Bey, a Syrian intellectual and close friend of Kassir, described his exceptional career as a writer, poet and journalist and the impact he had abroad. He also hailed the fact that an olive tree symbolising peace has been planted in Kassir's honour in Beirut and a street has been named after him in Palestine. A member of Lebanon's democratic left, Harb said: “To talk of Samir Kassir is to talk of the dream of the intellectual and activist, the dream of a different world, a different Middle East and a different Lebanon. Samir Kassir wanted what we all want today: an independent and sovereign Lebanon, one not occupied or dominated in what have been successive attempts to subjugate her throughout her modern history. He will endure as a symbol of dignity, independence, progress, democracy, integrity and justice.” Kassir was killed when a bomb planted in his car went off on the morning of 2 June outside his home in the neighbourhood of Achrafieh in East Beirut. Reporters Without Borders, which has been granted civil party status alongside his widow and family in the French investigation into the murder, has constantly stressed the need for everyone to actively support and assist in solving the case. A writer and historian, Kassir had been a columnist for the past 10 years for An-Nahar (“The Day” in Arabic), a daily newspaper with a circulation of 55,000. He was the correspondent of the French-language international television station TV5 and had written for many years for the French monthly Le Monde Diplomatique. He was also professor of political sciences at Beirut's St. Joseph university. As a political activist, Kassir was one of the founders of the opposition Movement of the Democratic Left and participated in the anti-Syrian protests in the spring of this year. He had been threatened and hounded for years because of his public positions and his criticism of the “Lebanese police state.” Lebanese state security police harassed him in 2000 and his Lebanese passport was confiscated. He later said he was constantly followed by Lebanese and Syrian intelligence agents at that time. He then received protection from Prime Minister Rafik Hariri before Hariri resigned and was himself assassinated. Kassir's last column, on 27 May, was headlined “Gaffe after gaffe” and criticised “the continuing repression in Syria.” The press has become a target for terrorist attacks ever since Hariri's assassination in February and is paying dearly for the deplorable security situation in Lebanon. The 25 September car bombing in which journalist May Chidiac lost a leg and a hand has reinforced the climate of fear in which Lebanon's journalists now have to work.