The knotted journalistic, political, and diplomatic careers of Ghassan Tueni narrate the history of Lebanon.
“Statesman, humanitarian, man of letters, and perhaps above all, social, as well as political conscience”, Ghassan Tueni always described himself as “only a working journalist”.
For him the freedom of the press has always been sacred. With thousands of editorials written over the years, Ghassan Tueni has made An-Nahar a persuasive and trustworthy voice in Lebanon and throughout the Arab world.
For more than half a century as journalist, politician, diplomat, and educator, he has been in the frontline of the struggle for Lebanese freedom, independence, and national sovereignty.
In 1947, Ghassan Tueni was called away from studies in political science at Harvard University (MA ’47) by the sudden death of his father, Gebran. He returned to Beirut and took over the newspaper his father had founded in 1924. He then served as editor-in-chief and editor-publisher of An-Nahar newspaper for more than half a century.
In 1951, at the age of only 25 he became a Member of Parliament and speaker of the house from 1953 to 1957, and member of the Lebanese UN delegation in 1957. He later served as deputy prime minister, as head of several ministries, as emissary and personal counselor of presidents of the republic, and as Lebanon’s UN ambassador.
Of his early decision to give up his graduate studies at Harvard and remain with the newspaper his father had founded, Tueni wrote that he made it a point “never to forget to measure policy by the benchmarks of liberty, human rights, national self-determination, democracy, and international peace based on justice.”
In defense of these principles and above all, of the freedom of the press, Ghassan Tueni was jailed several times early in his career. He went from government to jail to government. But he was able to call these “glorious days – although the distresses of jail for weeks and months” – because they revealed the Lebanese press as defender of “freedom of information and opinion, organizing the people’s defense of their liberty, their civil, economic, and political rights.”
Ghassan Tueni continued his pursuit of press freedom throughout the Lebanese civil war of 1958 and beyond. In 1970-71 he was deputy prime minister and minister of information and national education, but was once again briefly jailed. From 1975 to 1977 he was minister of social affairs, industry, and information, while continuing his work on the newspaper. During the civil war years readers referred to An-Nahar as the “guardian of the national conscience, human rights, and moral values in society and politics.”
As Lebanon’s ambassador to the United Nations from 1977 to 1982, he recalls “yelling, literally yelling, in a Security Council meeting, ‘Let my people live!’ and proclaiming before the General Assembly, ‘My country is neither for hire nor for sale!’” During his five-year career with the United Nations, Tueni saw the passage of 28 resolutions in favor of Lebanon, including the historic Resolution 425 demanding the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanese soil.
On his return to Beirut during the 1982 Israeli occupation, he continued his tireless support of efforts to end foreign occupation of the country. When he directly advised Lebanese presidents Tueni maintained his newspaper’s neutrality, opening its pages to all points of view and vehemently condemning all violence. Not even the severe difficulties on the ground – a divided city, dangerous travel, and constant threats of bombing and shelling – deterred the ongoing mission of An-Nahar in the waning years of the war.
Through his long, maybe too long, quest for liberty, Ghassan Tueni lost the family he has founded-besides An-Nahar.
From his 7 years old daughter Nayla to his wife Nadia, from his son Makram to his eldest Gebran…Still, he remained-at least, this is how he looked like- standing up like the Cedar.
Ghassan Tueni’s health has deteriorated the last few years with continuous check-in and out at the Hospitals.
During a long TV session we had two years ago, I have tried to gather and record as much info as I could for several documentaries I was and am still working on; I was fearing of losing the guardian of our History. However, the hours I had were never enough.
This morning, Ghassan Tueni gave up…all the glory and all the pain.
With his departure, Lebanon’s conscience is teared up…
The rooster of the Arab World is silent…for good.
Avec mon amitié et mes remerciements pour une des rares interviews que j’ai pris plaisir à faire
En appréciation d’un dialogue (en 6 parties jusqu’à maintenant) fort et important et particulièrement constructif
Thank you for the wonderful moments, for the magical questions and may God bless you