UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize 2006 awarded to Lebanese journalist May Chidiac
On the recommendation of an international jury of media professionals, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura today designated Lebanese journalist May Chidiac, winner of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2006.
May Chidiac is a popular television presenter, whose news bulletins and Sunday programmes - Naharkoum Saïd and Bonjour - on LBC (Lebanese Broadcasting Corp.) are among the most widely followed in Lebanon. Ms Chidiac's popularity owes as much to her professionalism as to her direct and open approach in a country traumatized by years of war.
The victim of a car bomb attack on 25 September 2005, Ms Chidiac had one of her hands and her left leg amputated. The tragedy shook Lebanese opinion, which came to see the journalist as a symbol of freedom of expression. The attack against her closely resembled the fatal attack on Samir Kassir, a journalist from the daily An Nahar, five months earlier. Another similar attack in December 2005 targeted the editor of An-Nahar, Gebran Tueni. May Chidiac was proposed as a candidate for prize by the Lebanese minister for culture.
The UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize is awarded annually on World Press Freedom Day (3 May). The 2006 prize, worth US $25,000, is financed this year by the Guillermo Cano Foundation, James and David Ottaway - respectively a former reporter from the Washington Post and a former Chairperson of the World Press Freedom Committee - and UNESCO.
The jury members are: Walid Al-Saqqaf (Yemen), Ruth de Aquino (Brazil), Conor Brady (Ireland), Kavi Chongkittavorn (Thailand), Kunda Dixit (Nepal), Joergen Ejboel (Denmark), Catherine Gicheru (Kenya), Daoud Kuttab (Jordan), Remzi Lani (Albania), Olena Prytula (Ukraine), John Thloloe (South Africa), Ricardo Uceda (Peru) and two representatives from the Guillermo Cano Foundation (Colombia).
Created in 1997 by UNESCO's Executive Board, the prize honours the work of an individual or an organization defending or promoting freedom of expression anywhere in the world, especially if this action puts the individual's life at risk. The prize is named after Colombian journalist Guillermo Cano, who was assassinated in 1987 after denouncing the activities of powerful drug barons in his country. Candidates are proposed by UNESCO Member States, and regional or international organizations that defend and promote freedom of expression.