Media Chiefs, Lawyers Blast Cancellation of Newspaper Director's Talk
Unions of Lebanese media editors and lawyers denounced Monday the canceling of a talk by newspaper chief Gibran Tueini, a leading tenor among voices calling for more balanced ties with powerful neighbor Syria.
"The syndicate of editors completely rejects what happened with our colleague Gibran Tueini," said syndicate president Melhem Karam in a statement published Monday.
Karam said the principal of the Sacre Coeur school in the eastern city of Zahle had called Tueini at the last minute on Saturday to tell him she had been asked by undisclosed parties to cancel a lecture he was due to give on "Lebanon and the Future".
"What is happening is totally unacceptable and is proof that there is fear for freedom of opinion which is guaranteed by the Lebanese constitution," he said.
Michel Lyan, president of the lawyers' syndicate, also denounced the incident, "hoping that the party which demanded the lecture to be cancelled was not serious in its threat and would not repeat such a violation of the most sacred of freedoms."
The president of the journalists' union, Mohammed Baalbaki, called for a syndicate meeting to "discuss the appropriate way to protect freedom of opinion."
Witnesses said troops had deployed around the school on Saturday before the lecture although the principal of the Christian religious institution said she never asked for security or army protection, Beirut papers reported.
Tueni, in repeated editorials in his newspaper An-Nahar and an open letter to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad earlier this year, has called for more balanced ties with Syria and for a Syrian troop pullout from Lebanon, or at least a long-awaited redeployment.
The issue comes amid a national heated debate, which also raged in parliament for the first time 10 days ago, over relations with Syria, including the continued Syrian military presence in Lebanon.
Last week Druze community leader MP Walid Jumblatt demanded a Syrian troop redeployment, angering Damascus to the point of declaring Jumblatt and his political allies "undesirables" in Syria.
On Sunday, thousands of people flocked to Jumblatt's mountain home to express solidarity with him after he received threats in parliament from a pro-Syrian MP.
Syria, the main power broker in Lebanon, first sent troops into the country in 1976, a year after the outbreak of Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war – BEIRUT (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)