Not even an assassination attempt could stop this journalist

By: Natalie O’Brien

She still lives with daily death threats even after surviving a car bomb attack which blew off her left leg and her left arm.

The outspoken Lebanese journalist and political commentator May Chidiac has refused to let the assassination attempt and subsequent dangers stop her telling her country’s story to the world.

But Dr Chidiac, who is in Sydney this week on a speaking tour about the “price of freedom of speech”, has said that safeguards such as Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act are important to stop people vilifying each other.

While Dr Chidiac said that she doesn’t believe in censorship because that is just a way of “silencing journalists”, she does believe in the laws.

“You do have to have safeguards – the laws are to protect people…so you don’t hurt other people,” she said.

Dr Chidiac, who will give a public lecture at Sydney University on Wednesday night, said that journalists in particular have a “mission” to tell the truth to the international community about what is really going on inside their countries.

“When they decided to silence me – that is what it was, they didn’t want to hear my voice any more. It has cost me a lot – almost my life – to keep on telling the truth,” she said.

“But you have to continually shine the light on the five Ws (who, what, where, when and why).

Dr Chidiac was a media personality, had her own television program on the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation and became well known for her outspoken criticism of the political influence of Syria over Lebanon.

It was because of that profile that a bomb was placed under the seat of her car in 2005.

Dr Chidiac said she was the only woman to be the victim of a political assassination attempt in Lebanon. “It was a bit like the Mafia women and children were spared. But (in my case) they overcame these particulates to send out the message that anybody can be attacked and nobody will be spared.”

But whoever was responsible did not succeed in keeping her quiet. After a 10-month recovery, she returned to television and public life and continued to speak out about the political situation in Lebanon. She has since established the May Chidiac Foundation and its Media Institute which supports the development of knowledge and media industries to foster freedom of expression, human rights, democracy.

And now she has a message for people everywhere and that is people need to accept each other.

She said Lebanon has learned the hard way, but it was only when the all the Lebanese people united, regardless of religion, and put their country first, that they got things done.