June 26, 2005
The Death of a Journalist
BY Stephen Talbot
Samir Kassir, 45, a respected journalist and outspoken critic of Syria's domination of Lebanon, was killed in a car bomb in Beirut on June 2. His murder sent shockwaves through the Lebanese pro-democracy movement trying to create a country free of Syrian control.
A columnist for Lebanon's leading newspaper, An-Nahar, Kassir was mourned by hundreds of friends and fellow journalists who held a silent vigil in Beirut's Martyrs' Square, holding pens aloft to honor the slain writer.
"Kassir's death was horrible and disgusting," writes Vatche Boulghourjian, the cameraman for our recent FRONTLINE/World report on Lebanon and Syria. "I'd met him on a few occasions and had very engaging discussions with him about politics or philosophy or art. He was an intellectual, and a really good spirit....Now the An-Nahar building has a massive picture of Samir hanging on its exterior. It's all very sad."
FRONTLINE/World correspondent David Lewis interviewed Kassir for his story on the militant Isalmic group Hezbollah, which we aired on May 22, 2003.
In that interview, Kassir, the son of a Greek Orthodox Palestinian, offered a nuanced view of Hezbollah, saying that in his private conversations with them they were "very realistic, pragmatic politicians." But he added that they could not make a move without Syrian approval.
In his strongest comments, Kassir called the Lebanese government of President Emile Lahoud "a joke" because Syria held veto power over all decisions. He compared Syrian domination of Lebanon to Soviet domination of Eastern Europe during the Cold War.
Here, we have put together a brief video clip from that December 2002 interview.
For further insights into Samir Kassir and his assassination, we recommend:
Adam Shatz, the Nation
"The Principle of Hope: Samir Kassir, 1960-2005"
Michael Young, opinion editor, Daily Star, Beirut
"Samir Kassir, R.I.P."
Committee to Protect Journalists, New York