Giselle Khoury, widow of slain Lebanese reporter Samir Kassim
The three winners of the 2014 European Union Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press are Tunisian journalist Hanene Zbiss for investigative reporting, Egyptian reporter Mohammed Abo El-Gheit for best opinion article and Syrian documentary filmmaker Orwa Moqdad for best audiovisual reporting, a category introduced for the first time this year.
The awards ceremony took place on June 2, in the ancient Sursock Palace Gardens in Beirut, and was attended by United Nations Special Human Rights Representative Stavros Lambrinidis. Zbiss, 34, won with a reportage on the proliferation of Koranic kindergartens in Tunisia after the January 2011 ousting of longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the rise of radical Islam, published in Tunisian weekly Realités.
Zbiss studied at Pavia University in Italy and spent years as a reporter for Italian-language daily The Tunis Courrier before becoming Tunisia correspondent for pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat.
Moqdad won with his reportage on Syrian musicians playing on the streets of Beirut.
''I was working on a documentary about the regime bombings of Aleppo when I ran into these musicians in Beirut'', he explained in his acceptance speech. ''I thought it was important to tell this part of the story too''.
Abo El-Gheit's winning article denounced ''all the violations of Egyptian journalists, who in spite of the political transition after the 2011 fall of President Hosni Mubarak, continue to be trapped between the Islamic anvil and the military hammer'', said the Arab and European jury.
Organised every year since 2006, the Samir Kassir Award honours the memory of Lebanese journalist and intellectual Samir Kassir who was killed in a dynamite bombing on June 2, 2005.
His assassination is widely attributed to the Syrian regime, which had just withdrawn from Lebanon after 29 years of occupation.
An outspoken critic of the Syrian regime's stranglehold on Lebanon, Kassir was one of many intellectuals and politicians killed in a string of targeted assassinations that began in 2004 and that appears to continue unabated.
In a speech at the awards ceremony, his widow, Lebanese journalist Giselle Khoury, spoke of the many Arab and foreign journalists who have disappeared into the black hole of the ongoing civil war in Syria, ''where they have fallen into the hands of the extremists or regime services engaged in repression''.
Khoury also spoke of Italian Jesuit priest Paolo Dall'Oglio, who was abducted by al-Qaeda in northern Syria almost a year ago.