Congratulations, and a few questions about the 2007 Gebran Tueni award Staff Writer Rita Barotta wonders if Michel Hajji Georgiou was really the best choice for the 2007 Gebran Tueni award.
By Rita Barotta
Last Sunday, the 2007 Gebran Tueni Award was granted to Michel Hajji Georgiou, a senior political analyst at the French-language daily L’Orient-Le Jour in Lebanon.

The prize is given by the World Association of Newspapers, which honors an editor or publisher in the Arab region, in association with the Tueni family, the publishers of An-Nahar newspaper.

Hajji Georgiou has demonstrated the values upheld by Gebran Tueni, who was killed by a massive car bomb on December 12, 2005.

These values are: attachment to freedom of the press, courage, leadership, ambition and high managerial and professional standards.

The award was given during a huge ceremony at the Biel conference center in downtown Beirut, on the eve of the second anniversary of the martyrdom of the chairman of the An-Nahar newspaper, who was known as "the press leader of the youth".

Gebran Tueini was a unique personality in the World Association of newspapers, for approximately twenty years. It is only natural that World Association of Newspapers should have named a prize after him.

This award is granted to the publisher or the editor of an Arab media, in order to help the emergence of more newspapers, publishers, editors and brave independent journalists in the Arab world.

On the first anniversary of his martyrdom, Nadia Al Saqqaf was given the Tueni award, being the first woman ever to be appointed an editor in Yemen.

We call this a true achievement. She deserved it.

But when we read the article of today’s L’Orient-Le Jour, written by the columnist Michel Thomas, all we saw a never ending praise to Mr. Hajji Georgiou.

Maybe it’s normal that a newspaper should shower its award-winning editor with such praise.

However, there are many Lebanese (let alone Arabs) who have never heard of this journalist.

Not that he is unprofessional, God forbid.

But he writes for a newspaper that is published in French, and therefore reaches only a very small minority even in Lebanon.

Moreover, what about all those Arab journalists, killed in the battle for freedom of speech throughout the Arab world, all those imprisoned, all those still sacrificing it all for the sake of the truth. Wasn't there someone among them who deserved an award?

Why was it Hajii Georgiou and not someone else? How was the evaluation made? What were the criteria?

We feel thankful to Hajji Georgiou for presenting his award to "my friend and partner in the struggle that left us in 2003", Rami Azzam, and the Syrian writer Michel Kilo, "detained in Syrian prisons, from which I hope he will soon be released".

We are thankful for the divine voice of Majidah Al Roumi who brought tears to our eyes with her unforgettable tribute to an unforgettable journalist.

We are also thankful to the three generations of Tuenis, although the second one is hidden behind the mask of death.

This is the price you pay to be a family of journalists. Real journalists.

The only problem is that we – other journalists – are such annoying people. We never stop asking questions, and we are very hard to satisfy.

Therefore, we really had to ask the question.