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Ghassan Tueni

January 5, 1926 — June 8, 2012

by Executive Editors

 “An irreplaceable giant”, “a veteran journalist”, “a legendary maverick”, “a press baron”, are a few of so many terms national and international newspapers used to describe Ghassan Tueni on the morning of his death last month at the age of 86, after a long struggle with illness. That day, Lebanon bid farewell to one of its few stepping-stones towards democracy and freedom.

Being a skillful journalist, distinguished diplomat and clever politician did not stop Tueni from also being a mighty father, loving husband and tender grandparent. He had no fear of death, embracing life, making him an inspiration to journalists and citizens across both the nation and the Arab world.

Tueni started his career as journalist at the age of 22 when he took control of Annahar newspaper after the death of his father. He strongly believed in freedom of the press, advocated for a secular and independent Lebanese state and stood for the rights for women and minorities. Tueni was jailed several times for his objections to the Syrian occupation and press censorship, became a member of parliament in 1951 at the age of 25, and served in different governmental positions, including house speaker, deputy prime minister and ambassador to Greece. In 1977, he became Lebanon’s permanent representative to the United Nations, a position he held until 1982. Soon after his famous plea “Let my people live” at the 1978 UN Security Council meeting, the UNSC adopted Resolution 425 calling on Israel to withdraw from South Lebanon.

Tueni’s voice reached out every day through his articles, speeches and lectures, until that day he thought he retired. Sadly, destiny decided otherwise when his son Gebran was assassinated in 2005. Ghassan consequently filled his son’s seat in parliament, and retook control of Annahar as editor-in-chief and publisher. Some of Tueni’s detractors have said that he was too close to the West and the Gulf Arab states, to which he sold the majority stake of Annahar, inviting criticism that the newspaper was lenient in its coverage of them and that it toed a more ‘right wing’ political line in recent years. Yet, in retrospect, his achievements overshadow any possible critiques.

For all his prestige though, Tueni was tragically familiar with death, losing not only Gebran, but before that both his other children and his wife. His son Makram was killed at the age of 21 in a car crash in Paris in 1987, while his seven-year-old daughter Nayla perished from cancer, which also took Nadia, his wife of nearly three decades, in 1983. 

“I refuse to show my sadness,” he once said to his granddaughter Michelle. “Grief is not supposed to be shared, only happiness.” Despite all the hardships he suffered, Ghassan Tueni remained strong, surviving the loss of his loved ones and continuing to work toward democracy and spreading the ethics of true journalism. He refused to display signs of weakness or despair, sadness or grief, even at the lowest of times. Indeed, at the funeral of his last remaining child, the victim of a car bomb, he uttered the famous words: “Let us bury hatred and revenge along with Gebran.”

Tueni was a caliber of man rarely seen. May Lebanon endeavor to follow his legacy.

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Executive Editors

Executive Editors are the collective voice of the magazine. Stories written by Executive Editors are the culmination of discussions, brainstorming, research and information-gathering by our editorial team. Over decades, our editorial team has applied a blend of seasoned expertise and a discerning eye to bring you insightful and engaging and substantive reads that eschew sensationalism.
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