A Lebanese television journalist who was badly maimed in a car bomb attack last year has been awarded Unesco's annual World Press Freedom Prize.
Since losing an arm and a leg in a bomb blast meant to kill her, Lebanese journalist May Chidiac returned this summer to television and her trademark criticisms of Syrian involvement in her homeland. She has received two major press freedom awards.
On the day that changed her life in September 2005, Chidiac hosted her regular morning political talk show on the privately owned Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, one of the country's most influential and respected news providers.
As she often did, she addressed Syria's possible involvement in the murder of Rafik Hariri, the anti-Syrian former prime minister who was killed in a massive explosion along with 22 others on Feb. 14, 2005.
A few hours after the show, 500 grams of explosives detonated under the driver's seat of her Range Rover. The explosion blew off her left leg below the knee and shredded her left arm, which was subsequently amputated. Her face was spared, largely because she had turned toward the back seat when the bomb went off.
"I knew I was disturbing them," she told Women's eNews recently, referring to Beirut's ruling pro-Syrian class and their mentors in Damascus. "But I never thought they would have been able to consider killing me," she said in an interview at her home in a leafy Christian suburb overlooking Beirut. Her attackers have not been found.
Syrian troops occupied Lebanon from 1976 to 2005, after entering as a peacekeeping force. They soon became a party to the bloody civil conflict that raged from 1975 to 1990. But in a country where dissent against Syria often meant death or disappearance, Chidiac didn't shy away from asking difficult questions, even during the Syrian presence in Lebanon.
Chidiac is largely dependent on her wheelchair until she learns how to walk again on her prosthetic leg. Her two bodyguards double up as assistants. She can't get ready in time to host her morning show, which she's put on hold, but she is still teaching two broadcast news courses at a university and fronting her evening program.
"My body is different but my mind is still the same," she said, pointing to her bejeweled, French-manicured prosthetic arm. "I'm still as tough as before, maybe tougher."
This article has been written by Rania Abouzeid. She is a freelance journalist based in Beirut. She has covered Lebanon for the last seven years.