For May Chidiac, host of Lebanon's popular "Good Day" TV program,
it was a regular Sunday in September. She had just finished a show
on Syria's possible involvement in the assassination of former Prime
Minister Rafik Hariri and had left the studio feeling satisfied and
secure. When she got into her car, a half-kilogram of explosives
blew up under her front seat.
She survived, but the blast took her left hand and leg.
"I didn't know at any moment that I was really threatened, even
though I'd received some letters saying I would pay with my blood
and things like that," she says of last year's explosion. "They
usually don't attack women in Lebanon and especially [not]
journalists, so I'm kind of a pioneer in that," she adds wryly.
Ms. Chidiac's story serves as a reminder that in much of the
world women are still struggling to establish a foothold in the
newsroom, just as they did in the United States in the 1960s and
'70s. And as they fight for professional standing, women are just as
likely as their male colleagues to be targets of repressive
political, social, or business interests that are threatened by the
This week, Chidiac is in New York being honored for her courage,
integrity, and sacrifice by the International Women's Media
Foundation, a nonprofit group dedicated to strengthening the role of
female journalists around the world. Two other reporters - Gao Yu, a
freelancer in China, and Jill Carroll of The Christian Science
Monitor - are also being feted for putting their profession and the
search for truth before their own safety. Elena Poniatowska Amor of
Mexico is receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award for her pioneering
spirit in paving the way for future generations of female reporters.
These awards, given since 1990, are the only ones in the world
devoted specifically to shedding light on the bravery of women in
journalism. The recent murder of Anna Politkovskaya, one of Russia's
top investigative reporters, adds deeper meaning to this year's
"That one just hit everyone in the gut," says Ann Cooper, the
director of broadcast at the Journalism School at Columbia
University in New York, noting the important role that journalists
play in a nation's political life. "If [journalists] are not free to
write openly about any subject, and to write critically when they've
found wrongdoing ..., it's probably a sign the rest of society is
restricted as well."
Chidiac: Attack energized her
Exactly 10 months to the day after the attack, Chidiac was back
on the air. But she now had a new show: "With Audacity."
Instead of dulling her determination, the bombing fired it up.
She continues to investigate not only the assassination of former
Prime Minister Hariri, but also the attacks against her and other
journalists. And despite the fact that she is still in
rehabilitation, she is also teaching young reporters at Notre Dame
University in Lebanon and finishing up a doctorate.
"When you want your country to be free and sovereign, you have to
keep attached to your beliefs and to keep on working, despite the
sacrifices," she says.
Part of her passion was inspired by growing up in a country that
was occupied first by Israel and then by Syria. She says she always
knew that she wanted to do something that would bring her attention
and help her country. She never realized the sacrifice that would
require. Noting that two of her male colleagues were killed last
year, she now accepts risk as a given.
"It's too late for me to stay away from the danger," she says. "I
believe I have a message and I have a mission to accomplish. If I
stay away now, all of my sacrifices would have been for nothing. So
I'll continue with the last drop of my blood working for my country
to be the way I want it to be - free and sovereign. …